Taurasi’s decision is business as usual

A Washington Post columnist says Diana Taurasi’s decision to sit out this year’s WNBA season for $1.5 million to play for her Russian team next winter is “a sobering message for the WNBA.”

Nope. It’s business as usual.

It’s a sad situation for Taurasi, the WNBA’s highest-paid player at just less than $107,000 a year, and a problem for the WNBA.

No, this is a sad situation, as is any player who is so worn down after year-round playing that they look tired in WNBA press conferences. And there are lots of those. Taurasi is taking advantage of her skills and her popularity and accepting a great offer that will take care of her financially when she’s older. She’s doing it on her terms, her way. As my source who first told me this news Friday night said, taking the money was “a no-brainer” for Taurasi.

It’s curious that Russian teams will pay big bucks to American players, but U.S. teams will not.

Again, no. I wrote about the differences between U.S. and European/Asian salaries in 2012:

Women’s professional basketball in Europe and Asia is directly effected by the worldwide recession because teams there are sponsored by businesses and governments. When faced with keeping their enterprises alive, companies cut the extras, like their team sponsorships. Ditto, governments. And as up to 100 percent of a team’s budget can come from sponsors, some franchises are forced to fold……

The pro game also attracts European and Asian spectators because colleges there are not tied with athletics as they are in the United States, and professional basketball is a fan’s only way of seeing the sport. In small cities, pro players can achive superstar status.

“Imagine a town of 50,000 people, a relatively small town,” Lelchitski said. “So their women’s basketball team is everything to them. They draw 6,500 people to every game, and they just go crazy.”

Another factor that makes sponsorships essential to the success of women’s basketball overseas, according to Croom, is that sports revenue is not tied to TV ratings as it is here.

In larger European and Asian cities – especially in Russia and Turkey – teams are sponsored by businesses with political ties to their governments. Lelchitski said governments also use revenue from men’s soccer, which is very popular, to help fund women’s basketball. Less fans support women’s hoops in big cities, but Lelchitski said the soccer-to-basketball funding is the overseas version of Title IX in the U.S.

“There are competitions between business owners in Russia to sponsor teams,” Cound said. “It’s different in club teams in Europe, which are generally sponsored by companies who have an interest in their success. The sponsors are usually a local company that looks good supporting (women’s basketball).”

Europe and Asia are much more freer athletic markets than the U.S., because they aren’t driven by the sports-tied-to-college machine. Nor are TV networks dominated by football, which is an American obsession that obscures every other sport.

Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve is correct: the WNBA will survive just fine without Taurasi. It has made it without other star players who stopped playing in this country and took their games over the water, like Cheryl Ford, Deanna Nolan and Janel McCarville, until she returned.

As sports is strictly a capitalist venture in the U.S., the professional women’s basketball situation won’t change anytime soon.

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