WNBA players who have spent the offseason competing in Ukraine have evacuated the country, the WNBA said in a statement Thursday.
Washington Mystics guard Ariel Atkins, who plays for BC Prometey in Ukraine, applauded her Ukrainian teammates for taking the court in Bulgaria after Russia launched a military invasion of Ukraine on Wednesday.
On Thursday, she shared several photos of herself and her teammates draped in Ukrainian flags on her Instagram story before the game.
“Can’t even put into words how proud I am of my Ukrainian teammates for drying up their tears and giving their best tonight,” Atkins said. “A big part of me is angry of what’s happening in the world. Please be aware of what’s happening in the world and educate yourself on the effects of a potential war and in this case actual war. Because if you think this is only going to effect Ukraine, think again.”
Joyner Holmes, who plays with Atkins on the team and recently signed a training camp contract with the Connecticut Sun, added on her own Instagram story that it “has been so tough for all of us.”
Many WNBA players are also currently playing in Russia. The league confirmed that it has been “in contact with WNBA players who are in Russia, either directly or through their agents” and will “continue to closely monitor the situation.”
Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner, Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart, Connecticut Sun forward Jonquel Jones and Chicago Sky guards Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley all play for UMMC Ekaterinburg in Yekaterinburg. Russia’s Dynamo Kursk is also home to several WNBA players, including the Dallas Wings’ Arike Ogunbowale, the New York Liberty’s Natasha Howard and the Seattle Storm’s Epiphanny Prince.
Many athletes have spoken out following the invasion. Ukrainian tennis player Elina Svitolina has been particularly outspoken, writing on social media that she is “proud to be Ukrainian.”
Arella Guirantes, a guard for the Los Angeles Sparks who has also spent time playing with BC Budivelnyk in Kyiv, said that her “heart is so heavy right now.”