Breanna Stewart Wants the WNBA to Charter Flights Next Season, NBA Stars Agree: 'No Matter How Much'
Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Breanna Stewart
As WNBA stars push for the league to change its policy on chartered flights, stars from the NBA have also begun to take notice.
As it stands, the WNBA does not allow teams to charter flights for players, as a policy to maintain competitive fairness around the league. However, since Brittney Griner was released from Russian detainment in December, the league's need for chartered flights is greater than ever, according to its players.
Griner, who plans to return to the Phoenix Mercury for the 2023 season, will likely require chartered travel for security purposes. In addition to navigating Griner's situation with her team, several stars have pushed back against the rule against flying private over the years.
In particular, free agent Breanna Stewart suggested contributing her own profits from brand partnership deals to fund chartered flights for all teams in the league.
Ethan Miller/Getty (L-R) Brianna Turner, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Kia Nurse and Brittney Griner
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Stewart, 28, said, "I would love to be part of a deal that helps subsidize charter travel for the entire WNBA," in a tweet on Jan. 22. She explained that she "would contribute" proceeds from her NIL deals to "ensure" that all WNBA teams travel in a way "that prioritizes player health and safety" moving forward.
Stewart added that this will "ultimately result in a better product" for the league. At the end of her message, Stewart asked, "Who's with me?"
WNBA legend Sue Bird (who retired at the end of last season) responded to Stewart's tweet with a raised hand emoji.
— Sue Bird (@S10Bird) January 22, 2023
Several other stars from the WNBA and NBA showed support for Stewart's request as well, including Kahleah Cooper and Elena Delle Donne.
Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant tweeted, "Count me in," to his 2.3 million followers in response to Stewart's post.
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Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving, who was just named a 2023 NBA All-Star this week, spoke about the WNBA's travel woes during a postgame conference on Thursday.
Irving, 30, told reporters, "We gotta get something done, and I'm with them no matter how much it costs per se. I think we could all collectively come together and make something very doable happen."
“We gotta get something done, and I’m with them no matter how much it costs per se. I think we could all collectively come together and make something very doable happen.”
- @KyrieIrving on WNBA chartered flight issues pic.twitter.com/GBGpRT7M13
— Anthony Puccio (@APOOCH) January 26, 2023
WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert told ESPN that the cost to charter flights for all teams during the season would be approximately $20 million, which Engelbert says would "jeopardize the league's finances."
Engelbert has stressed how hard the league is working to accommodate higher salaries and more comfortable arrangements for players a number of times recently.
RELATED: WNBA's Cathy Engelbert Looking for Ways to Pay Players More to Avoid Another Brittney Griner Situation
Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty WNBA Commissioner, Cathy Engelbert and Breanna Stewart
During a December press conference, Engelbert said she talks "a lot" about "the economic model" the WNBA is trying to build in order to further compensate its' players. "A top player can make up to $700,000," said Engelbert.
She emphasized that the league's young age in comparison to the NBA or other professional sports leagues holds them back.
"We're not 75 or 100 [years old] like some of the men's leagues. So we're working on that and studying history, we're building rivalries, we're building household names." Engelbert added that it's "part of the player marketing agreements" that the league is putting $1.5 million towards.