November 13, 2022
Major explosion occurs in Istanbul, a hub for top women’s basketball players
On Nov. 14, a source confirmed the safety of all WNBA players in the region to The Next.
An explosion has rocked a prominent pedestrian center in Istanbul, Turkey, a European nucleus for top women’s basketball players worldwide.
As of 4:05 p.m. on Nov. 14, a source familiar with the situation confirmed to The Next that all WNBA players in and around Istanbul are safe and have each been accounted for. The Players Association (WNBPA), the WNBA, player agents and security staff were involved in the effort.
On Sunday afternoon, CNN reported that the blast had killed six people and injured as many as 81. Soon after, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay told reporters the attack was being considered a terrorist attack. The event took place on Istiklal Avenue, one of the most well known avenues in Istanbul.
Since the exile of the Russian market following the wrongful detainment of Brittney Griner, Turkey has rapidly become a hotbed for women’s basketball. Istanbul, in particular, currently hosts at least 11 current and former WNBA players and one former NCAA player. The city is home to four major clubs that play in FIBA’s EuroCup and EuroLeague and/or the Turkish Super League (KBSL): Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray and Emlak Konut.
Vodafone Park, the home arena for Beşiktaş, is just 2 kilometers from the site of the explosion. Beşiktaş had played an away match at Antakya Sport Hall in Hatay, Turkey, on the opposite side of the country earlier that day. The three other home arenas for local clubs are all within a 15 km radius of Istiklal Avenue.
The men’s soccer team of Beşiktaş was slated to play at Vodafone Park Sunday evening but postponed the match due to “the treacherous attack in Istanbul,” the club wrote in a statement which was translated from Turkish.
“We strongly condemn the attack, and we reiterate our belief that those who rely on the attack will never achieve their treacherous goals,” they added in the statement. “There is no force that can disrupt the unity and solidarity of our nation.”
Fenerbahçe addressed the attacks in a statement on Twitter. The statement, translated from Turkish, indicated the club “hopes that there will be no loss of life in the explosion that took place on Istiklal Street; We convey our best wishes to all our citizens who were at the scene.”
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A representative for the Chicago Sky was able to confirm the safety of Sky players currently in Istanbul to The Next. In addition, Natasha Howard’s agent was able to confirm her safety to The Next. Howard is currently playing for Fenerbahçe.
The Dallas Wings issued the following statement regarding the status of Teaira McCowan, who plays for Galatasary:
Wings personnel have spoken with Teaira McCowan and confirmed she is safe and doing well. Teaira and the Wings want to send our thoughts and prayers to all those affected by today’s tragedy in Istanbul, Turkey.— Dallas Wings (@DallasWings) November 13, 2022
WNBPA executive director Terri Jackson issued the following statement to The Next:
“Upon seeing CNN’s report WNBPA initiated its procedures to contact players with calls and texts directly to players and to their agents,” Jackson wrote. “We also immediately coordinated with our security team colleagues at the NBPA, who have direct contact with ground resources all over the world. NBPA Director of Security, La Verne Hibbert confirmed within minutes that initial reports of a boiler explosion were incorrect and that we had a more serious situation.”
“At that point, we advised our counterparts at the league and kept them updated. While we always advise players and agents at the end of the W season about the importance of registering with the State Department’s STEP program, incidents like these provide the opportunity for us to remind them to get that done and to confirm with us.”
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Several countries, as well as representatives from NATO and the European Council, have condemned the attack. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg took to Twitter early Sunday afternoon to express NATO’s support for the country:
EuroLeague and EuroCup play will not resume until Tuesday. No games are scheduled to be played in Istanbul until Dec. 7, per the leagues’ online schedules at the time of publication. On Nov. 14, the FIBA European Regional Office confirmed to The Next that no EuroLeague Women or EuroCup Women games will be played in Istanbul this week.
The Turkish Super League will play round seven of its regular season beginning Friday, Nov. 18. Two games will be played in Istanbul on Nov. 19, including a match between Galatasary and CBK Mersin, which has rostered as many as four current and former WNBA players this season.
James Kay, Em Adler and Jackie Powell contributed reporting to this story.
Written by Isabel Rodrigues
Isabel Rodrigues (she/her) is a contributing writer for The Next from upstate New York who regularly covers 3x3 and the state of women's basketball in the U.S. and internationally.