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 Pictures

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

Based on a report from Sports activities Illustrated earlier at this time, the homeowners of the WNBA’s New York Liberty chartered a airplane for its skilled gamers fairly than having them fly business throughout the second half of the season. WNBA gamers have spoken up previously concerning 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 crew journey in 2021. The league’s collective bargaining settlement, nevertheless, prohibits chartered flights as a result of all homeowners might not be capable to afford such a luxurious.

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

Based on SI, the WNBA threatened to terminate the complete franchise or take away “each draft choose they’ve ever seen.” Whereas the ultimate punishment didn’t go that far, the crew did find yourself getting fined half 1,000,000 {dollars} — down from an unique million — and the league eliminated a Liberty government from its government committee.

This advantageous 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 will make effectively over 1,000,000 suiting up for worldwide professional groups.

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

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

Going again to insufficient therapy? 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 crew to be zero, in accordance with a number of league sources, and thus all he spends on his crew is successfully a contribution towards the better good of girls’s sports activities.”

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

Because the WNBA expands and attracts in increasingly viewers (viewership was up 49 p.c from 2020 to 2021), the league has to have the ability to take itself severely sufficient — and by extension, take its athletes severely 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 — possible as a result of they’re making most of their cash by means of 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 foul style within the mouth for a league that purports to have completed a lot for ladies’s sports activities and has genuinely come a good distance within the final decade. To brush off a well being and security subject like COVID, and to threaten to close down a complete franchise in retaliation, is a weird energy play that makes it look like 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 At the moment final week, Cambage said, “It’s exhausting when you may have one of the best league on the planet, however we’re not handled like one of the best athletes on the planet.”


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