Maria Vadeeva Cut?
The Los Angeles Sparks announced their 12 woman roster for the postponed 2020 WNBA season this Tuesday, over Zoom conference. This follows a directive from the league office to cut rosters down to size by the end of the day May 26th to ensure the league can issue payroll on time. For Sparks fans, there was one very noticeable name missing from the roster: Russian star Maria Vadeeva.
Vadeeva, originally from Moscow, has been in Russia since stay-at-home orders went into effect around the world in March, having been playing alongside other WNBA talent for her Russian club UMMC Ekaterinburg. A statement released by the Sparks confirms that Vadeeva has not been cut, but has been assigned “suspended” status as she remains overseas in light of the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic. The Sparks “remain in close contact” with Vadeeva, who plans to rejoin the team for the 2021 season, but will not travel to the States if the WNBA is able to hold a season in 2020.
Vadeeva’s “suspension” reflects an issue many WNBA teams face as they move to narrow their rosters–there are many foreign players who fill important roles on their squads that cannot safely return to the states if the 2020 season is held. While the White House has clarified that athletes will be exempt from coronavirus-related travel bans, this does not change the very real health risk posed to athletes, their families, and their teammates by flying back to the states. If the WNBA is able to find a neutral site for play this season as the NBA has, this may prove a competitive balance issue with several teams missing key players.
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