July 24, 2016
Over half of the WNBA’s players head to foreign countries after the conclusion of the season to join European and Asian clubs during their “offseason”. With the WNBA’s season lasting just over five months, players use their extra time to earn money overseas and to continue working on their basketball skills. One of the more established and popular countries that is a major destination for many players has been Turkey. Turkey has been popular for many reasons. For one, Turkey has one of the larger leagues in Europe. Last season the league fielded 14 teams with each team carrying up to two American players. Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, is known to be one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. Istanbul is a modern and vibrant city with tons of nightclubs and a huge variety of restaurants, shopping centers and tourist activities. This makes Turkey a very attractive place for players to head where many people speak english and players feel welcomed and not too far from home. However, with the recent airport attack and the failed coup in Turkey many players are hesitant about heading back to the country they’ve grown to love.
At the end of June 44 people were killed and 239 were injured in Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport when three attackers armed with PA-10 rifles and explosives opened fire before blowing themselves up. Turkey’s Istanbul Ataturk Airport is one of the busiest airports in Europe, an airport that all players who head to Turkey travel through on many occasions. On 15 July 2016, a coup d’état was attempted in Turkey against the government but ultimately failed. With Turkey currently in chaos many players fear for their safety. With the season set to begin in October, unless things settle down in the country, many teams will be without their signed players for the upcoming season.
Not all players are afraid or hesitant about heading back to Turkey. Los Angeles Sparks center Jantel Lavender, who played last season for Fenerbache, where they won the championship along with Marissa Coleman isn’t afraid to head back to Turkey. Lavender expressed that even though things are currently hectic in the country she has never felt unsafe playing in Turkey. She also said that “Anything could happen anywhere in the world so it’s hard to avoid all dangers. If something is meant to be it will be.” This view is in contrast with Briann January of the Indian Fever who has also signed to play in Turkey this upcoming season. January is leaning towards not fulfilling her obligation with her team in Turkey for fear of her safety. “If we know what the situation is in Turkey why put yourself in a dangerous place. If things calm down then maybe I will head over but if things remain the same I doubt it.” Marissa Coleman is on the fence about going back to Turkey. After having a great season last year, it was only right that teams were after her to return. “Right now I haven’t made a decision. I’m going to wait until the time comes to see what the situation is like in Turkey.”
There are varying opinions about whether or not players should head to Turkey. Lavender is right in saying that anything can happen anywhere. These days you can be watching a movie, or attending a church service, mingling at a work function or simply shopping at a mall when terror can attack. It is almost impossible to avoid all dangers but at what cost are you willing you take that chance. Many are hopeful that the situation in Turkey will calm down and ease the minds of those who are set to play in the Turkish League this coming season. However, don’t be surprised when some players decide that the reward is not greater than the risk of heading to a country where terror attacks are becoming far too common.