Los Angeles Sparks are forced to sleep in the airport following crucial victory over Washington Mystics after their flight was canceled two days before must-win clash against Connecticut as players bemoan WNBA travel rules
- Los Angeles Sparks beat Washington Mystics in crucial 79-76 win Sunday night
- The team were supposed to fly back to LA at 1am but their flight was postponed
- The flight was pushed back to 9am Monday with the Sparks next game Tuesday
- The team face Connecticut Sun Tuesday night as they chance a playoffs spot
The Los Angeles Sparks were forced to sleep at the airport after their flight out of Washington, D.C. was canceled two days before a crucial late-season game.
The Sparks clinched a tight 79-76 win over the Washington Mystics Sunday but now face Connecticut Sun Tuesday night in Los Angeles, having lost much of their off day to travel.
But half the team had to sleep at the airport after their flight back to Los Angeles was canceled and there were not enough hotel rooms available for the entire traveling party.
The Los Angeles Sparks were forced to sleep at the airport after their flight was canceled
The Sparks were supposed to fly back from D.C. at 1am but their flight was delayed several times until it was eventually postponed until 9am Monday.
Sparks forward and president of the WNBA Players Association Nneka Ogwumike took to Twitter to reveal the situation as she claimed it was only a matter of time before it happened due to travel in the women’s game.
‘We are roaming the airport. First time in my 11 seasons that I’ve ever had to sleep in the airport,’ she said in a video shared to social media.
Nneka Ogwumike (centre) claimed it was only a matter of time before it happened due to travel
‘Based on travel, it was only a matter of time. Half of us are sleeping at the airport, half of us are at a hotel — there weren’t enough rooms after our flight got delayed, delayed, delayed and then canceled at 1am It is now 1.44 and we’re here until 9am.’
Assistant coach Latricia Trammell posted a photo of the chairs the players and staff had to sleep on.
She captioned it: ‘Our beds tonight! #theseplayersdeservebetter #charter #gametomorrow’
Sparks guard Brittney Sykes also tweeted about the situation, posting: ‘Catching red eye… twice delayed flights after games…’
Assistant coach Latricia Trammell and guard Brittney Sykes tweeted about the situation
Travel has been a point of controversy in the league in recent years as all teams are required to fly commercial to maintain competitive balance with some owners unable to or refusing to pay for charter flights.
In March, the WNBA fined the New York Liberty $500,000 – the largest fine in league history – for secretly using charter flights during the 2021 season in violation of the league’s collective-bargaining agreement.
The New York Liberty flew chartered flights several times last season, resulting in a $500,000 fine for the team
Sports Illustrated reported at the time that Liberty took eight charter flights, including a trip to Napa, California.
The CBA allows for players to fly in premium economy but considers first class tickets and charter flights to be an unfair competitive advantage because some teams cannot afford such a luxury – and that fact could hurt those organizations in the eyes of free agents.
The travel set up raises serious logistic issues and has lead to players becoming disgruntled, with many pointing out that players in other leagues, such as the NBA, do not have to deal with the problem.
Seattle Storm star Breanna Stewart blamed the WNBA’s insistence on flying commercial for a positive COVID-19 test.
Stewart and teammate Epiphanny Prince were both declared out for a game in Phienix in May because they entered the league’s health and safety protocols, which is an indication that they tested positive for the virus.
Tweeting in response to that announcement, Stewart quipped: ‘Fly commercial they say…’
Mystics guard Natasha Cloud also tested positive for COVID-19 in May and the Washington star posted a similar message on Twitter.
Other players in the league have blamed commercial flights for positive COVID-19 tests
‘Shoutout to the @WNBA for flying us commercial during a pandemic,’ she wrote. ‘(And no mask mandates) Go mystics.’
The Sparks are one of four teams separated by just one game as they chase the eighth and final spot in the playoffs.
The game against Connecticut Tuesday night is a must-win but it is unclear just how much their travel disruption will affect the Sparks.