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The WNBA has always had issues surrounding flight travel dating back to its inception in 1997. In recent years, the New York Liberty have taken center stage in those discussions as their travel adventures had a direct impact on the team and their on-court performance. When the Liberty have taken matters into their own hands, they were fined by the league and threatened with a whole lot worse.
On Wednesday morning, the Associated Press published a first hand report of the Liberty’s three-game road trip. Liberty beat writer Doug Feinberg was with the club as they went from Connecticut to Las Vegas and then finally, Seattle. The team went 2-1 as they bookended the trip with a tremendous win against the contending Connecticut Sun and a win against the rebuilding Seattle Storm. In between those games was the most hyped and anticipated game of the season thus far.
The Liberty and Las Vegas Aces are the two favorites to make it to the WNBA Finals as they both had all time great off-seasons. The game was circled on everyone’s calendar as the superteams squared off for the first time. The game didn’t live up to the hype as the Liberty ran out of gas in the third quarter and the Aces asserted their championship dominance in a wire-to-wire victory. In postgame, Sandy Brondello made mention of the travel issues they had coming to Vegas from Connecticut. The new JSX flights that the WNBA recently instituted is not accessible in Connecticut. As a result, the Liberty flew from Connecticut —> Atlanta —> Vegas. The AP shared a timeline of their journey to Nevada the day after their win vs the Sun:
11 a.m. Flight departs Hartford bound for Atlanta.
— 1 p.m. Flight lands in Atlanta and players have 40-minute window to get food before their connection is scheduled to depart.
— 2 p.m. Connecting flight departs Atlanta for Las Vegas.
— 6 p.m. Team lands in Las Vegas and operations staff waits on bus for luggage to be loaded as players take another bus to team hotel.
— 7:30 p.m. Team checks into hotel in Las Vegas.
Following the Aces game, Jonquel Jones was asked about travel in the WNBA and mentioned the league needs charters as fast as possible. She expanded on the issue of travel and said:
“We’re professionals. And I think that’s the next step for the WNBA in its professionalism, and also for the players to be able to put their best feet forward and play the type of basketball that they can play every night. So right now, travel is difficult.
You play a long game, and then you sit next to somebody and it’s like, “Oh, what do you do? Oh, you play basketball?!” Then they start asking 100 questions and it’s like you don’t want to be rude because you still want to help grow the league. But you’re tired, you know?
So all those things kind of play into it a little bit, and then makes it a little bit more tedious. And so anytime that we can get on a charter, it’ll be amazing. But we want it to be something that’s sustainable for the league.”
That sustainability point is one Breanna Stewart has made before. As she mentioned at her introductory press conference, she hopes the league goes from a “no” to a “maybe” and eventually a “yes” when it comes to the issue of charters. In the AP story with Doug Feinberg, she acknowledged the Liberty organization is doing everything they can to make travel easy on the players. She took a look at the big picture and said:
“I don’t think we’re asking anything crazy. We want to continue to be our best, and realizing that all the prehab and rehab and lifting and stuff we do for our bodies is just as equally important as the way that we travel and the ability to stretch our legs.”
It’s been proven that better travel leads to better sleep and better sleep and rest leads to better on-court performance. As the NBA grew into the behemoth it is today, teams gradually started improving their own flight needs for teams and players. As the WNBA’s parent league, they are more than capable of addressing this issue for the W without breaking a sweat.
As someone who has covered this charter stuff for months, I maintain that the NBA could solve this with a snap of its fingers. The problem is that the NBA does not treat the W like a premier product. https://t.co/CIn9FKFNnH— Lindsay Schnell (@Lindsay_Schnell) June 11, 2023
That needs to change ... immediately.
As the WNBA continues to grow, the players will continue to push the league forward. The on-court product is in tremendous shape and evolving by the second. The players have formed long lasting positive relationships with the fans and have made a difference locally and on a global scale. As the players wow us on the court, it’s up to the powers that be to create working conditions that allow them to be the best versions of themselves every day and night. They and the fans who pay to see the best at their best deserve it.