Los Angeles Sparks star Nneka Ogwumike said Monday night via social media that the WNBA’s “transformational growth” is being hampered by ongoing travel issues and what she sees as “tired arguments” against possible remedies.
Ogwumike and the Sparks had travel issues Sunday at Dulles Airport in Virginia after their victory over the Washington Mystics. After two delays, the Sparks’ flight was canceled and rescheduled for Monday morning.
“It’s the first time in 11 seasons that I have had to sleep at the airport”, Ogwumike said in a video posted to social media in the early hours of Monday. “Half of us sleep in an airport, half of us in a hotel. There weren’t enough rooms after our flight was delayed, delayed (again) and then canceled at 1am. It’s now 1:44 a.m., and we’ll be here until 9 a.m.
The Sparks boarded the Monday morning flight and were back in Los Angeles around noon; they will host the Connecticut Sun on Tuesday night as the WNBA completes its final week of the regular season.
Multiple sources told ESPN that every Sparks player had actually bought themselves a hotel room, but not all at the same hotel because a limited number of rooms were available. But due to the late hour and the need to be back at the airport with such a short turnaround time for the rescheduled flight, some players opted to stay at the airport. Sparks player Lexie Brown also confirmed that, via social media.
According to a CNN report, more than 900 flights were canceled nationwide on Sunday, and nearly 700 were canceled on Saturday as airlines continue to grapple with issues including staff shortages and weather.
The WNBA travel situation continues to be an issue players are raising on social media, and Ogwumike’s prominence as the players’ union executive committee chair has drawn attention to her post.
The WNBA does not have charter flights due to prohibitive costs, league commissioner Cathy Engelbert has repeatedly said. But the league will host all WNBA Finals games, it announced at a press conference ahead of July’s All-Star Game. The WNBA may also choose to rent earlier in the playoffs if teams cross multiple time zones with limited time between games.
The WNBA’s most recent collective bargaining agreement, signed in January 2020, does not include charters, and league rules prohibit any of the 12 teams from individually opting for the charter because it could create a disadvantage. competitive with each other. It was revealed earlier this year that the New York Liberty was fined $500,000 for occasionally using charters last season. Engelbert also denied a report that Liberty owner Joseph Tsai offered the league a plan that would cover charters for all WNBA teams.
With her prominent union role, Ogwumike was instrumental in the adoption of the ABC, but she pointed out in a statement on social media that a lot has changed in air travel since the COVID-19 pandemic. 19, and this must be considered.
“In these unprecedented times, the required form of commercial travel remains a significant burden on our players and their bodies,” Ogwumike said. “This is a serious health and safety issue that needs to be addressed.
“Competitive advantage is a tired argument that has outgrown its welcome. It’s a phrase that prevents transformational growth in our league. New and emerging ownership groups have demonstrated an ability and willingness to invest the resources necessary to develop this league in the areas that need it the most.”
In July, Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve expressed frustration with what she saw as the league’s slow response to the Lynx’s travel issues to get to Washington for a game. When asked about it, Mystics coach Mike Thibault initially said he was “tired of hearing” about the WNBA travel delays and that he didn’t feel sorry for the Lynx because that this happens to all teams. However, he later apologized for his remarks.
In light of the Sparks’ problems on Sunday, Ogwumike, with the backing of the union, wrote on social media on Monday that she hoped this would lead to more travel improvements.
“We reiterate our standing invitation to the league and team ownership to work together to identify a manageable solution to this problem whose origins are complex, but the remedy simple,” Ogwumike wrote. “It’s time to allow teams to invest in charter flights between games, starting with the entire 2022 WNBA Playoffs, and continuing with a common-sense solution beginning in 2023.
“And in the spirit of collaboration, we call on private and commercial airlines to recognize this bold opportunity to lead: American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, United, NetJets, Wheels Up, JetSuiteX, among others: we encourage you to meet us at the table and in partnership with WNBA players to help take down the toughest opponent they face each season: travel.”
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