The WNBA’s travel policy is a disaster, has been for a while.
Back in July, the Liberty went through a nightmare that was so epic Jazmine Jones chronicled it on social media. They lost a game after arriving late, then barely made it back home in time for a big game at Barclays.
Joe Tsai was not pleased. The WNBA doesn’t permit the use of charters no matter what. Teams must fly coach. Something about rich owners like Tsai having an advantage over the less rich. The NBA’s 30 teams, of course, all use charter jets, new ones in fact. Here’s the tweet from back in July...
Enough is enough. I’m going to solve this transportation problem for good. @WNBA @nyliberty https://t.co/IkW8Kpiy5l— Joe Tsai (@joetsai1999) July 10, 2021
Now the travel policy is in the news again as playoff teams are subject to multiple flights, delays and unrested players and Tsai revealed that there is a possible solution in the works, one that involves a sponsorship deal for charters.
Tsai disclosed the news after reports of the post-season travel issues were laid out by Mechelle Voepel who covers the league for ESPN. She quoted Connecticut Sun coach Curt Miller on the specifics.
[T]he Sun traveling party will be split up among three flights taking off from two airports: in Boston and outside of Hartford, Connecticut. The (Chicago) Sky, meanwhile, will be split up among three flights taking off from three airports: in Boston, outside of Hartford and outside of Providence, Rhode Island.
The reason, Miller said, was to avoid tall players having to be in middle seats so they have more comfortable flights.
Ramona Shelburne, who covers the NBA for ESPN reacted strongly to her colleague’s piece.
The @wnba playoffs have been great so far. Travel is still a problem, though. The best women’s players in the world are taking three separate flights in between playoff games so they don’t get stuck in middle seats on commercial air flights. https://t.co/p6cWZcv2hW— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) October 2, 2021
And that in turn got Tsai to respond. First, he reiterated that he wanted things to change ... then suggested there might be a solution soon, one involving a sponsorship deal. He sounded optimistic and noted that conversations with CEOs are “going well.”
League says you can’t fly charter because different owners have different financial circumstances. I’m working with Commissioner Englebert to find a charter sponsor. Conversations with airline CEOs going well. They get the idea of equity for women athletes.— Joe Tsai (@joetsai1999) October 2, 2021
Tsai didn’t provide details but it would seem that the league’s increasingly high profile could indeed open up sponsorship opportunities. In his interview with Alex Schiffer of The Athletic, also Thursday, Tsai said that WeBull, the Nets newly announced jersey patch sponsor, specifically wanted the patch deal to include the Liberty.
In general, as he has in the past, Tsai spoke about possible synergies between his two clubs, noting among other things “I hope that at some point people would see the Brooklyn Nets and New York Liberty in the same light.”
Fixing the inequities between the NBA and WNBA on travel would be a good start.