By MARK LORENZANA
I was only supposed to write about an update on WNBA basketball player Brittney Griner, who is still detained in Russia. I have covered Griner extensively in this column, and I’ve regularly heard and read negative comments about the WNBA star, even from some friends.
One of the biggest arguments I’ve read — and heard from friends — is that Griner shouldn’t have smuggled hashish oil with her, which is prohibited in Russia. Griner has since pleaded guilty to the charges, which was seen as something that she needed to do — the next step was to wait for the United States to offer a prisoner swap.
The Joe Biden administration has already offered to exchange Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms trafficker serving a 25-year U.S. prison sentence, as part of a potential deal to secure the release of Griner and Paul Whelan, another American detained in Russia. The Russian government has already countered, and requested that a former colonel from the country’s domestic spy agency — who was convicted of murder in Germany last year — be included in the swap.
But to go back to the negative comments on Griner. For me, the bigger issue is not the fact that she got caught in Russia with a prohibited substance; for me, it’s the fact that she needed to go to Russia in the first place. In the WNBA, it’s common for players to compete in the Russian women’s professional basketball league during the offseason for extra money — these athletes are just not being paid enough. Well, compared to NBA players anyway. Consider this: With a 10-day contract in the NBA, a player can earn as much as $130,000. In contrast, in the 2020-2021 WNBA season, Griner’s salary for the entire year was $215,000.
The recent brouhaha of the Mexican National Women’s American Football Team not making the trip to Finland because of alleged lack of funds just hammered down the point that we are still a long way off from seeing women athletes being treated with the same respect as men athletes — regardless of any sport.
The Mexican women’s football team was scheduled to travel to Finland on Wednesday, July 27, for a match-up against Great Britain on Saturday, July 30. The team ended up forfeiting the game — and not even making the trip — because the Mexican Federation of American Football, headed by César Barrera, allegedly did not completely pay the booking fee for plane tickets, which were reserved as early as April of this year for players and staff.
The team placed third in the 2017 Women’s World Championships, which helped them qualify for the current tournament being staged in Finland. Members of the team, along with their family and friends, already organized a protest.
So far, Barrera has not clarified whether Mexico’s National Commission for Physical Culture and Sports (Conade), led by Ana Guevara, ever gave them the original budget of 2.5 million pesos that should have been allocated for the tournament.
One thing’s for sure, though: Whenever it’s a Mexican men’s team — in any sport — that needs to compete in an international tournament, you’ll never hear “lack of funds” as an excuse.