Los Angeles Sparks standout Nneka Ogwumike addresses WNBA’s ongoing travel issues ‘that need to be fixed’ – ESPN

Los Angeles Sparks standout Nneka Ogwumike addresses WNBA's ongoing travel issues 'that need to be fixed' - ESPN

Los Angeles Sparks stand out Mrs. Ogwumike said via social media Monday evening that “transformative growth” in the WNBA is being hampered by continued travel issues and what she sees as “tired arguments” against potential remedies.

Ogwumike and the Sparks had travel issues Sunday at Dulles Airport in Virginia after their win over the Washington Mystics. After two delays, the Sparks’ flight was canceled and rebooked for Monday morning.

“The first time in my 11 seasons that I’ve ever had to sleep at the airport,” Ogwumike said in a video posted on social media in the early hours of Monday. “Half of us are sleeping in an airport, half of us are in a hotel. There weren’t enough rooms after our flight was delayed, delayed (again) and then canceled at 1 a.m. It’s now 1:44, and we’re here until 9 in the morning”

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 concludes its final week of the regular season.

Multiple sources told ESPN that every Sparks player was in fact offered a hotel room, but not all in the same hotel because a limited number of rooms were available. But due to the late hour and the need to return to the airport with such a short period of time for the rescheduled flight, some players chose to stay at the airport. Sparks player Lexie Brown also confirmed this, 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 struggle with issues including staff shortages and weather.

The WNBA’s travel situation continues to be an issue players raise on social media, and Ogwumike’s high profile as the president of the players’ union executive committee has drawn additional attention to her position.

The WNBA has no charter flights because of prohibitive costs, league commissioner Cathy Engelbert has said multiple times. But the league will charter for all WNBA Finals games, she announced in a news conference before July’s All-Star Game. The WNBA may also choose to charter 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 choosing to charter because that could create a competitive disadvantage between them. It was revealed earlier this year that the New York Liberty were fined $500,000 for using charters at times last season. Engelbert also denied a report that Liberty owner Joseph Tsai offered the league a plan that would make charters covered for all WNBA teams.

With her prominent union role, Ogwumike was instrumental in getting the CBA approved, but she pointed out in a statement on social media that a lot has changed in air travel since the COVID-19 pandemic, and that needs to be taken into account.

“During these unprecedented times, the required form of business travel remains a significant burden on our players and their bodies,” Ogwumike posted. “It is a serious health and safety concern that needs to be fixed.

“Competitive advantage is a tired argument that has outstayed its welcome. It is a phrase that prevents transformative growth across our league. New and emerging ownership groups have shown an ability and enthusiasm to invest the necessary resources to grow this league in the areas that require it most. a lot.”

In July, Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve expressed frustration with what she felt was the league’s slow reaction to the Lynx’s travel issues going into Washington for a game. When asked about it, Mystics coach Mike Thibault initially said he was “tired of hearing” about WNBA travel delays and that he didn’t feel sorry for the Lynx because it happens to every team. However, he later apologized for his remarks.

In light of the Sparks’ problems on Sunday, Ogwumike, with the support of the union, wrote on social media on Monday that she hopes this leads 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, the origins of which are complex, but the remedy is 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, full-season solution starting in 2023.

“And in the spirit of collaboration, we call on both 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 partner with WNBA players to help eliminate the toughest opponent they face each season: travel.”

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