Connecticut Sun forward Jonquel Jones has no plans to stop playing overseas, despite the safety concerns that have arisen amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking with ESPN, the 2021 WNBA MVP says the money available abroad is simply too much to pass up.
“I’m going to have to deal with it,” Jones said of playing abroad. “Because I feel like while the [WNBA] is making the right and necessary strides to pay us more and ensure that if we don’t want to go overseas, we don’t have to, I just feel like in my situation, the money is not comparable. I have to think about the financial status of my family and everybody else, and also the opportunities that I’m leaving if I don’t go.”
Jones reportedly signed a two-year deal during the offseason with an annual average salary of $208,075. But her WNBA salary pales in comparison to her payday abroad. What she makes in a season in the WNBA, she makes in a month in Russia, ESPN reported.
Jones competed with UMMC Ekaterinburg of the Russian League before the war forced the 28-year-old to leave the country. She exited Russia and landed in Turkey on March 2, telling her Twitter followers, “That situation was way more stressful than I realized.”
Just landed in Turkey and all I want to do is cry. That situation was way more stressful than I realized. Thank you God for always watching over and protecting me 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾— Jonquel Jones (@jus242) March 2, 2022
Just landed in Turkey and all I want to do is cry. That situation was way more stressful than I realized. Thank you God for always watching over and protecting me 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾
“We’re really in a bubble in a sense,” Jones told ESPN of playing internationally. “But I never questioned my safety. Even when I lived in China, when I lived in Korea, I never felt like I wasn’t safe. So the war was the first time I really felt like, ‘Wow, like this is a new situation, unprecedented type of situation.'”
The potential safety concerns that come with playing abroad in a country like Russia have been emphasized by Brittney Griner’s detainment. The Phoenix Mercury center has been in custody in Russia since February.
“I’ve been looking at these pictures that I have on my phone, the last set of pictures I took with her we were going to Valencia or wherever. We were all just joking and laughing around and stuff, and it’s just crazy how fast things can change,” Jones tells ESPN of her time with Griner, revealing to the outlet that she has been in contact with Griner’s wife.
Dallas Wings star Arike Ogunbowale says she has also been enticed to go aboard for money, sharing her experience leaving Russia amid the war on The Players’ Pod with Kelley O’Hara. While the 25-year-old is compelled to earn a lucrative salary with her WBC Dynamo Kursk team, she says she might stay stateside this upcoming offseason.
“I think the biggest part is just building my brand more, because at the end of the day, the WNBA is four or five months and we are overseas for like seven months, and obviously there isn’t a lot of visibility over there,” Ogunbowale said. “Plus women’s sports is excelling right now, so it’s a great time to build your brand and be here and be visible.”
The need for many players to go abroad for money has been a sticking point in the WNBA, with many athletes calling for substantial change to compensation to rectify the overseas exodus.
“I would say probably when I’m leaving the league, players probably won’t have to do it, players of my caliber who are going to make that top dollar overseas, they’ll have the options to stay here and make the same money,” Jones said. “But I don’t think I’ll see it in my career. I hope so.”