How will the WNBA work to keep players from going overseas?

Following Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner's release from a Russian penal colony on Thursday, WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert spoke about how the league plans to keep other players from needing to play overseas in the offseason in the future.

Video Transcript


CATHY ENGELBERT: I've been a big advocate for letting the players do what they want to do with their off season. This is their time to figure out what they want to do. But we're also chipping away at the economic model and growing the league and so we've tripled the number of player marketing agreements we did with players this year. And in order to do one of those agreements, they stay home here in the US. And I think more and more of our players are taking other opportunities here at home, like what Janae is doing with the ESPN, Candace with Turner, Sabrina was announced working with Oregon. Skylar and Kia doing kind of broadcast things with their respective NBA teams, and many others.

We've got now current WNBA players coaching in both the G League and the NBA and at the college level, et cetera. So we're starting to chip away at that. I think our players are going to do what they think is best for themselves, but we definitely inform them all the time of the security risks of where they might be playing. This just happened in Turkey with that explosion in Istanbul. So whether it's Turkey, Russia, China, wherever our players go to play-- Italy, Spain, Germany-- our players play everywhere. Belgium. We also have 23 players from outside the US who don't live in the US in the off season and play in Europe or live elsewhere from 13 different countries.

So we're globalizing our game as well. So again, our players are going to do what's best for them in consultation with their families and their agents. And we're certainly here to help them think through the security risks and things like that. But again, I think some of our players will want to still play overseas because, one, they're either from there because we have 23 players of our 144 from 13 different countries. Or they don't get a lot of playing time in the WNBA. It's highly competitive here. And again, as a former college athlete, I would have wanted to play year round when I got out as my craft. And they are the best in the world. So we look forward to working with them on an economic model to thrive in the future.