Frustration over the lack of charter flights for WNBA teams has been well-documented, especially earlier this season when the Indiana Fever’s Natalie Achonwa described a 22-hour ordeal to get from Seattle to Indianapolis.
That’s why the WNBA’s decision on Sunday to pay for charter flights for the winner of the second-round playoff games to get ready for Game 1 of the semifinals is an important one:
wow this is huge— Matt Ellentuck (@mellentuck) September 15, 2019
the wnba announced it's going to cover the cost of charter flights for the winners of today's playoff games
both winners of today's games will be on the west coast set to play on the east coast tuesday night pic.twitter.com/zsErXaa6tM
The statement read:
“With both second-round WNBA playoff games taking place in the Pacific Time Zone on Sunday and WNBA semifinals set to tip off on Tuesday in Connecticut and Washington, D.C., the league has arranged and will cover costs for charter flights for the winners of Sunday’s games. We believe it is in the best interest of the players to provide them with an opportunity to arrive expeditiously in the city of the first game of the WNBA semifinals and have a full day on-site to practice, rest and prepare.”
The Seattle Storm play at the Los Angeles Sparks at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, while the Chicago Sky face the Las Vegas Aces on the road at 5 p.m. ET in the second round of the playoffs to determine which teams will take on the Connecticut Sun and Washington Mystics in the semifinals on Tuesday.
Notice that both games on Sunday are on the West Coast, and there is essentially a 48-hour turnaround before tip-off on the East Coast on Tuesday. Factor in a cross-country flight and time to get settled in a new city, and the respective road teams will be at quite a disadvantage.
Past difficulties with travel
At the All-Star Game this season in Las Vegas, Aces head coach Bill Laimbeer attempted to fly the players via first class. The league wouldn’t let him, he said.
WNBA players typically fly commercial for road games, which is taxing not only considering the amount of travel that occurs during the season but also on the bodies of athletes who oftentimes have a short window to settle in and prepare for road games. The issues and complaints surrounding the lack of charter flights are constant.
So, this is a positive development for the WNBA to recognize that it would be unfair for a team to fly cross country on a commercial plane and have to kick off the semifinals less than 48 hours after winning a do-or-die playoff game.
Hopefully, there will be a day in the not-so-distant future in which WNBA players chartering flights isn’t a newsworthy story.
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