League sources told ESPN that former WNBA MVP Breonna Stewart made charter flights a key factor in her free agency.
The issue of private air travel has moved to the forefront of free-agent conversations around the WNBA, multiple sources told ESPN, due to the perception that Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner was flying privately because of security concerns after she was released. will need to be filled. From a Russian prison in December. Griner was arrested last February at a Russian airport after authorities found a small amount of hashish oil in his luggage. He was wrongfully detained for nine months, before his release as part of a prisoner exchange brokered by the administration of President Joe Biden.
If Griner were to fly privately, the league would have to decide whether his teammates on Mercury would fly privately with him. This would raise questions of fairness for the league’s other teams, who are prohibited from flying privately.
The sources said Griner has indicated he wants to play for the Mercury again this season, but has not yet requested special league travel accommodations.
Stewart, who played with Griner on the US national teams and tweeted about Griner nearly every day of her incarceration, raised the issue of WNBA-wide charter flights in a tweet on Sunday.
Stewart noted in the tweet that she would be willing to contribute her own name, likeness, and money from equality deals, social media posts, and production hours to ensure that the entire WNBA privately “prioritises health and wellness.” giving priority” to travel. player safety” and “ultimately results in a better product.
I would love to be part of a deal that helps subsidize charter travel for the entire WNBA.
I will contribute my zero, post + production hours to ensure that we all travel in a way that prioritizes player health + safety, which ultimately results in a better product.
who’s with me?
— Breanna Stewart (@breannastawart) January 22, 2023
Unlike the 30 teams in the NBA, 12 teams in the WNBA currently fly on commercial airlines except in rare circumstances. While Commissioner Cathy Engelbart has pledged to address the issue, there is no significant progress or timeline for implementing charter flights in the near future.
WNBA team owners must vote in the Board of Governors to change the current arrangement.
The New York Liberty, one of four teams welcoming Stewart in free agency, was fined a record $500,000 for chartering flights during the 2022 season. Currently, the WNBA and its owners have decided that no team can fly a charter, even if your property can afford it, until all teams can afford it. The cost of travel rentals for all teams is estimated to be around $30 million.
ESPN reported on Friday that Stewart has meetings scheduled this week with the Liberty, Seattle Storm, Minnesota Lynx and Washington Mystics in Istanbul, where he currently plays for Turkish team Fenerbahce.