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Ogwumike: WNBA journey woes ‘should be remedied’

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11:33 PM ET

Mechelle VoepelESPN.com

CloseMechelle Voepel covers the WNBA, ladies’s school basketball, and different school sports activities for espnW. Voepel started protecting ladies’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.

Los Angeles Sparks standout Nneka Ogwumike mentioned by way of social media Monday night that “transformational progress” within the WNBA is being impeded by continued journey points and what she sees as “drained arguments” towards attainable cures.

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

“First time in my 11 seasons that I’ve ever needed to sleep within the airport,” Ogwumike mentioned in a video posted on social media within the early hours of Monday. “Half of us are sleeping at an airport, half of us are at a resort. There weren’t sufficient rooms after our flight obtained delayed, delayed (once more) after which canceled at 1 a.m. It’s now 1:44, and we’re right here till 9 a.m.”

The Sparks boarded the Monday morning flight and have been again in Los Angeles by round midday; they’ll host the Connecticut Solar on Tuesday night time because the WNBA finishes its final week of the common season.

A number of sources instructed ESPN that each Sparks participant truly was provided a resort room, however not all on the identical resort as a result of a restricted variety of rooms have been accessible. However due to the late hour and must be again on the airport with such a brief turnaround time for the rescheduled flight, some gamers opted to remain on the airport. Sparks participant Lexie Brown additionally confirmed that, by way of social media.

In keeping with a CNN report, greater than 900 flights have been canceled nationwide on Sunday, and practically 700 have been canceled on Saturday as airways proceed to grapple with points together with workers shortages and climate.

The WNBA’s journey scenario continues to be a problem that gamers elevate on social media, and Ogwumike’s excessive profile because the president of the chief committee of the gamers’ union drew added consideration to her submit.

The WNBA doesn’t have chartered flights attributable to prohibitive prices, league commissioner Cathy Engelbert has mentioned a number of occasions. However the league will constitution for all WNBA Finals video games, she introduced in a information convention earlier than July’s All-Star Recreation. The WNBA can also choose to constitution earlier within the playoffs if groups are crossing a number of time zones with restricted time between video games.

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The WNBA’s most up-to-date collective bargaining settlement, signed in January 2020, doesn’t embody charters, and league guidelines prohibit any of the 12 groups from individually opting to constitution as that might create a aggressive drawback amongst them. It was revealed earlier this yr that the New York Liberty have been fined $500,000 for utilizing charters at occasions final season. Engelbert additionally denied a report that Liberty proprietor Joseph Tsai had provided the league a plan that will get charters lined for all WNBA groups.

Along with her outstanding union function, Ogwumike was instrumental in getting the CBA handed, however she identified in a social media assertion that a lot has modified about air journey for the reason that COVID-19 pandemic, and that should be considered.

“Throughout these unprecedented occasions, the required type of business journey stays a major burden on our gamers and their our bodies,” Ogwumike posted. “It is a severe well being and security concern that should be remedied.

“Aggressive benefit is a drained argument that has overstayed its welcome. It’s a phrase that stops transformational progress throughout our league. New and rising possession teams have demonstrated a capability and eagerness to take a position the mandatory assets to develop this league within the areas that require it probably the most.”

In July, Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve expressed frustration with what she felt was the league’s sluggish response to the Lynx’s journey points moving into Washington for a recreation. Requested about it, Mystics coach Mike Thibault initially mentioned he was “uninterested in listening to” about WNBA journey delays and that he did not really feel sorry for the Lynx as a result of it occurs to each staff. Nevertheless, he later apologized for his remarks.

In mild of the Sparks’ points Sunday, Ogwumike, with the backing of the union, wrote on social media on Monday that she hopes this results in extra journey enhancements.

“We reiterate our standing invitation to the league and staff possession to work collectively to establish a manageable answer to this drawback whose origins are complicated, however treatment easy,” Ogwumike wrote. “It’s time to allow groups to spend money on constitution flights between video games, starting with your complete 2022 WNBA playoffs, and persevering with with a typical sense, full-season answer starting in 2023.

“And within the spirit of collaboration, we name upon each personal and business airline firms to acknowledge this daring alternative to steer: American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, United, NetJets, Wheels Up, JetSuiteX, amongst others: We encourage you to fulfill us on the desk and associate with WNBA gamers to assist get rid of the hardest opponent they face every season: journey.”

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