During the winter months, many WNBA players take their talents overseas to Europe, Asia and Australia to supplement their salaries. And some WNBA players are part of a new t U.S.-based league like Athletes Unlimited, including Natasha Cloud and Tianna Hawkins, both of whom who are the top two ranked players in the league!
But for the purposes of this story, as you know, many WNBA players who play in Europe, especially star level players spend their winters in the former Warsaw Pact states now in the EU and NATO (like Poland and the Czech Republic), Turkey or the former Soviet states like Russia. Some of these countries’ governments are friendly to the U.S. but others aren’t. And this leads me to the elephant in the room.
On Wednesday morning, Russian military forces invaded Ukraine where they are apparently looking to siege the capital, Kyiv (f/k/a Kiev) and overthrow the Ukrainian government. There are multiple WNBA players who play for teams in both Russia and Ukraine. And one of these players is on the Washington Mystics.
Ariel Atkins plays for BC Prometey in Kamianske, located just a bit east of Ukraine’s geographic center. They are currently first place in the Ukranian women’s super league and are also in EuroCup Women continentally, where they are currently in the Round of 8. Atkins is averaging 16.9 points per game in domestic competition. In EuroCup, she is averaging 20.7 points per game.
BC Prometey played their most recent game, the first leg of their EuroCup Round of 8 match against Mersin of Turkey at “home” yesterday. But due to the invasion, they played the game in Bulgaria. It was an 86-67 loss. While Atkins scored 27 points, Prometey was held to 35 percent shooting for the game. And with a roster that is mostly Ukrainian, I wouldn’t blame the team for feeling out of sync.
Atkins shared an Instagram story and the message is below:
Glad to see that Ariel Atkins and her Ukrainian team overseas are safe.— BF_Mystics (@BF_mystics) February 25, 2022
They played their most recent game yesterday in Bulgaria in part due to the events.#TogetherDC pic.twitter.com/8iVPn0MglS
Can’t even put into words how proud I am of my Ukrainian teammates for drying up their tears and giving their best tonight. A big part of me is angry that this is even happening. Please be aware of what’s happening in the world and educate yourself on the effects of a potential war and in this case an actual war. Because if you think this is only going to [affect] Ukraine, think again.
With light and love all things may prevail. Praying for the safety of innocent civilians and those putting their life on the life to fight for freedom.
BC Prometey also announced that due to the conflict and the current institution of martial law, games in Ukraine are postponed until further notice.
President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a decree on the imposition of martial law in Ukraine. Earlier, the relevant decision was made by the Verkhovna Rada.
According to the decree, martial law is imposed from 5:30 on February 24, 2022 for a period of 30 days. The decision was made in connection with Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine.
Due to the situation, in Ukraine all basketball competitions are canceled until new announcements, according to the website of the Basketball Federation of Ukraine.
According to Cydney Henderson of USA Today, all WNBA players who are playing overseas in Ukraine are now out of the country. There are many WNBA players who are on Russian teams like UMMC Ekaterinburg and Dynamo Kursk, and the league has been in contact with them as well.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has also affected the NBA. Sacramento Kings center Alex Len played for the Washington Wizards last season and is Ukrainian. He tweeted this message which he wrote with Toronto Raptors forward Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk.
НЕТ ВОЙНЕ #PrayForUkraine #StandWithUkraine @sviat_10 pic.twitter.com/hGJG4fE8Ce— Alex Len (@alexlen) February 24, 2022
A GREAT TRAGEDY BEFELL OUR DEAR HOMELAND UKRAINE. WE CATEGORICALLY CONDEMN THE WAR. UKRAINE IS A PEACEFUL, SOVEREIGN STATE INHABITED BY PEOPLE WHO WANT TO DECIDE THEIR OWN DESTINY. WE PRAY FOR OUR FAMILIES, FRIENDS, RELATIVES AND ALL THE PEOPLE WHO ARE IN THE TERRITORY OF UKRAINE. WE HOPE FOR AN END TO THIS TERRIBLE WAR AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. DEAR FELLOW UKRAINIANS, HOLD ON! OUR STRENGTH IS IN UNITY! WE ARE WITH YOU!
ALEX LEN & SVIATOSLAV MYKHAILIUK
For more on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, you may click here and here.