WNBA fines Liberty for chartering staff flights

Oh, to be a pro athlete that is expected to fly coach.

Oh, to be a professional athlete that’s anticipated to fly coach.
Picture: Getty Photographs

The WNBA is outwardly attempting to compete with the MLB for a way a lot it might probably hate its personal gamers.

In accordance with a report from Sports activities Illustrated earlier at present, the homeowners of the WNBA’s New York Liberty chartered a airplane for its skilled gamers moderately than having them fly business through the second half of the season. WNBA gamers have spoken up up to now in regards to the points that accompany business flights as skilled athletes, from discomfort within the seats to canceled flights to paying for upgrades out of pocket, as described by star Liz Cambage in a much-discussed tweet final month.

With COVID considerations including onto all of this, Joe and Clara Wu Tsai, the homeowners of the Liberty, determined to foot the invoice to constitution a airplane for his or her staff journey in 2021. The league’s collective bargaining settlement, nonetheless, prohibits chartered flights as a result of all homeowners might not have the ability to afford such a luxurious.

The backlash from the league was, in a phrase, outrageous.

In accordance with SI, the WNBA threatened to terminate your complete franchise or take away “each draft choose they’ve ever seen.” Whereas the ultimate punishment didn’t go that far, the staff did find yourself getting fined half one million {dollars} — down from an authentic million — and the league eliminated a Liberty govt from its govt committee.

This tremendous is over twice the wage of any participant within the WNBA. With a person wage cap that doesn’t fairly attain $230,000, WNBA gamers have lengthy traveled abroad to play within the offseason, the place they’ll make effectively over one million suiting up for worldwide professional groups.

The Liberty gamers, together with star ahead Sabrina Ionescu, appeared to have an excellent relationship with the Tsais and have been very appreciative of the efforts they’d made towards the staff’s consolation and professionalism. The WNBA was, nonetheless, displeased with the concept that skilled athletes could be handled like skilled athletes.

Sports activities Illustrated additionally reported that the Tsais even introduced a proposal that might have allowed each WNBA staff to fly constitution for the following three years, which was voted down as a result of “homeowners anxious that gamers would get too used to it, so there’d be no going again.”

Going again to insufficient remedy? Getting used to being handled pretty? Yeah, sounds horrible.

To supply a glance into the place a few of the possession is coming from, right here’s one other quote from the SI article:

“One WNBA proprietor proudly proclaims the worth of the WNBA staff to be zero, in line with a number of league sources, and thus all he spends on his staff is successfully a contribution towards the higher good of ladies’s sports activities.”

Oh, that’s nice. Actual charity work he’s doing there.

Because the WNBA expands and attracts in increasingly more viewers (viewership was up 49 p.c from 2020 to 2021), the league has to have the ability to take itself critically sufficient — and by extension, take its athletes critically sufficient — to legitimize its place amongst American skilled sports activities. The athletes have been outspoken about their opinions on league insurance policies, together with wage caps, and have by no means backed down from advocating for themselves — seemingly as a result of they’re making most of their cash via non-WNBA ventures.

The present CBA limits homeowners just like the Tsais who’ve an actual curiosity in investing and rising their groups as monetary property whereas treating the athletes like actual professionals. This entire incident leaves a nasty style within the mouth for a league that purports to have performed a lot for ladies’s sports activities and has genuinely come a great distance within the final decade. To brush off a well being and security problem like COVID, and to threaten to close down a complete franchise in retaliation, is a weird energy play that makes it appear to be the league leaders don’t have a lot curiosity within the success of the WNBA or its athletes.

In an look on ESPN’S NBA Immediately final week, Cambage said, “It’s arduous when you’ve got the very best league on the planet, however we’re not handled like the very best athletes on the planet.”

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