The LOS ANGELES TIMES sends Megan K. Stack to a place called Vidnoye, Russia, to write about the owner of a women’s professional basketball team. Sounds bizarre, eh? Well, when you read the piece, you’ll know why.
(What a lovely couple!)
The owner is an ex-con, greaseball named Shabtai von Kalmanovic. Kalmanovic, who claims to have made his money erecting buildings in apartheid South Africa, was once jailed in Israel for being a Soviet spy. He uses his countless, questionable millions to lure the top WNBA stars, like Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, to play for his Moscow-based team, “where they live in luxury and play before halfhearted audiences.”
The way the story reads, it’s almost as if the WNBA players are von Kalmanovic’s private, little harem. And the way he talks to them does nothing to dispute that notion.
After the game, Kalmanovic sits in his private lounge with the mayor of Vidnoye before a spread of fancy food and liquor. Tina Thompson slips into the room, prettied up in a green hoodie, a Chanel bracelet and long, gold necklace.
“My girlfriend!” Kalmanovic exclaims happily, grabbing at Thompson.
“A smart Russian Jew should have a Russian wife and an American girlfriend,” he adds, grinning.
Thompson rolls her eyes a little, smiling with closed lips. “He’s not serious,” she says.
Classy. Do you think a less-generous, male American WNBA owner could get away with that kind of talk?
Almost as classy as Kalmanovic having strippers perform during breaks in the games:
When play halts, cheerleaders in knee boots prance onto the floor. Dolled up like strippers, they are bursting out of their tiny strappy tops and wearing sparkly pink miniskirts that don’t cover their bottoms.
Attendance for the games, held in a high school gym, is sparse. Much like the WNBA, the team buses in schoolchildren for games.
The reason the women put up with all this? Money. Some can make as much as 10 times what they make during the summer season in the States. But is it worth it to be humiliated? Apparently.