Seattle Storm star Brianna Stewart blames the WNBA’s insistence on commercial flying for her recent positive COVID-19 test.
Stewart and teammate Epifani Prince were announced for Wednesday night’s game in Phoenix because they had entered league health and safety protocols, an indication that they had tested positive for the virus.
Stewart tweeted in response to this ad, sarcastically: “Fly commercial they say…”
Seattle Storm star Breanna Stewart (#30) blames WNBA’s insistence on commercial flying for her latest positive COVID-19 test
Stewart and teammate Epifani Prince were announced for Wednesday night’s game in Phoenix because they had entered league health and safety protocols, an indication that they had tested positive for the virus. Stewart tweeted in response to this ad, sarcastically: “Fly commercial they say…”
The WNBA’s reliance on commercial flights, as opposed to charters, has been a major point of contention between players and the league. For example, on Tuesday, when it was revealed that Mystics guard Natasha Cloud had tested positive for COVID-19, the Washington star posted a similar message on Twitter.
She wrote: ‘Screams to the WNBA for taking us commercial during the pandemic. (And there is no mask to impose) Go to the Sufis.
The Federal Aviation Administration lifted the federal mask mandate last month, which could increase the risk of players being exposed to the coronavirus.
In March, the WNBA fined New York Liberty $500,000 for secretly using charter flights during the 2021 season in violation of the league’s collective bargaining agreement. Sports Illustrated reported at the time that Liberty had taken eight charter flights, including one to Napa, California.
The travel promotion is a focus of the union, but Commissioner Kathy Engelbert (pictured) told the New York Times in March that it wasn’t a possibility if it threatened the league’s “financial health.”
The CBA allows players to fly in premium economy but considers first class tickets and charter flights an unfair competitive advantage because some teams cannot afford such luxury – a fact that can hurt those organizations in the eyes of free agents.
The downside for players is more than just potential exposure to COVID-19. Teams in the NBA-owned WNBA often fly multiple connecting flights for road games, while their male counterparts fly directly, reducing travel time dramatically.
Liberty’s owner, Joe Tsai, expressed concerns about the policy in October and said he and Engelbert were trying to find a sponsor to pay for the charter flights, although the deal has yet to come to fruition.
“The league says you can’t fly by charter because different owners have different financial circumstances,” Tsai wrote on Twitter in October. I work with the commissioner [Cathy] Englebert (sic) to find a charter sponsor. Conversations with airline CEOs are going well. They got the idea of equality for mathematics.
However, progress appears to have stalled in this area. In March, Engelbert estimated that it would cost the WNBA an additional $20 million per season to fly on all 12 teams on charter flights, and that price doesn’t necessarily reflect higher fuel prices.
In response, union chief executive Terry Jackson said she believed a solution could be found: “The league is young, but it’s big enough. We can find out.
Liberty owner Joe Tsai said last year that he and Englebert (sic) were working on finding a sponsor to help the team fly charter planes, but the deal has yet to come to fruition.
The Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA are seen after a commercial trip in 2019
Washington’s Natasha Cloud (pictured) is one of the many players focusing on travel issues in the WNBA
Like Stewart, Washington’s Natasha Cloud blamed commercial flights for her positive test
Not only was the league criticized by its players, but NBA stars like the Portland Trail Blazers Josh Hart took aim at the NBA.
“This is bullshit and you should get better, WNBA yall,” Hart wrote on Twitter on March 1.
New York Liberty flew chartered multiple times last season, resulting in a $500,000 fine to the team
The problem has been so bad in the past that some players have paid their own money to upgrade their seats, including 6-foot-8 Liz Campag, a permanent All-Star now in her first season with the Los Angeles Sparks.
The travel upgrade remains a focus for the league, but Engelbert told the New York Times in March that it was not a possibility if it threatened the league’s “financial health”.
“We’re trying to build revenue and financial models that support better things for players in the long-term, but that’s not something we can afford today,” she said.
Engelbert did not disclose the league’s revenue, but said the WNBA is valued at $475 million by itself and over $1 billion with all 12 franchises listed.
Jackson said the union is trying to make small changes — ones that won’t threaten its long-term viability.
“We did not enter into negotiations to break the bank,” she told The Times. “We care a lot about this league. But we want to support. The players want to be supported and appreciated, not taken advantage of.
The WNBA did not immediately respond to DailyMail.com’s request for comment.
Former NBA goalkeeper and coach Derek Fisher (left) smiles as he smiles with his travel ad at the Los Angeles Sparks during the 2019 season