The Las Vegas Aces became the 1st team in WNBA history to forfeit a game after electing not to play in their August 3rdcontest against the Washington Mystics; the club cited player health and safety concerns following 25 hours of travel (see: flight delays x3, cancellations). League rules prevent teams chartering private planes to ensure an even playing field. With the season ending on August 19th, and no common availability, the league was unable to re-schedule the game.
Howie Long-Short: WNBA teams travel commercial because their finances simply don’t support anything better. Indiana Fever SVP Kelly Krauskopf explained to the Indy Star that a club could travel all season (commercially) for the same price as 2 charter flights (estimated $150,000-$200,000/trip).
Aces coach Bill Laimbeer acknowledges that “it’s not feasible” for league franchises to travel private, which makes the club’s decision to forfeit the game that much more peculiar. Why damage your playoff changes for a couple minor changes in travel guidelines (think: limiting number of time zones a team can travel following game)?
Fan Marino: Aces fans should be upset their team didn’t take the floor amid a playoff run. Sure, 25-hours of travel is a nightmare and I’m certain the players were tired, but to claim anyone was at risk of being injured because they had a broken night of sleep is absurd. Aces players willingly took a loss to make a statement to the league, it’s time to treat WNBA players like professionals. They’re right, but if the club fails to make the playoffs (and they’re currently just one game out), it’s going to be hard to argue their approach was; the debate over if the team should have played the game will overshadow why they chose not to.
While the league’s travel accommodations may not be 1st class just yet, if the league continues its recent growth trajectory they’ll get there. Viewership (during 1st half of season) rose +35% YoY across ESPN2 & NBATV and +38% YoY (to 247,000) on ESPN, merchandise sales on the league’s website increased +50% YoY and Puma recently announced a league-wide footwear partnership with the WNBA.
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