Los Angeles Sparks players sleep at Dulles Airport after win.


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Opinion

Nneka Ogumike won the WNBA MVP award, was named a seven-time all-star and earned a championship ring. After her Los Angeles Sparks upset the Washington Mystics on Sunday, she slept in an airport during a late playoff game.

Hours after the 79-76 victory, the WNBA’s travel issues were once again at the forefront as the Sparks were stranded in the Washington area.

In the year Ogumumike, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft, took to Twitter Monday morning as she toured Dulles International Airport and filed the first document to become president of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association.

“Yeah, so, we’re hanging out at the airport,” she said. I had to sleep in an airport for the first time in season 11. … It was only a matter of time. So half of us are sleeping in the airport, half of us are in the hotel. “After our flight was delayed, delayed, delayed, delayed and canceled at 1am because there weren’t enough rooms, it’s now 1:44 and we’ll be there until 9.”

The Sparks were scheduled to leave at 10:30 a.m. but didn’t find out about the cancellation until 1 a.m., a team spokesman said. All players were given a hotel room, but not everyone used the accommodation, according to the team.

The team returned to Los Angeles on Monday morning. The Sparks, three games out of the final playoff spot, host the Connecticut Sun on Tuesday night.

The lack of charter flights for WNBA teams has long been a point of contention, and players have become more vocal about the issue in recent years. The league doesn’t allow teams to charter, and New York Liberty owner Joe Chee was fined last season for doing so. “League says you can’t fly charter because different owners have different financial situations,” Tsai tweeted last year.

As expansion approaches, WNBA players are looking for owners who are willing to spend

Delays and cancellations were a growing issue for all travelers; Federal transportation officials said 88,161 flights had been canceled this year through May — the second-highest number in the first five months of a year since 1988. The only worst year is 2020 when the epidemic started.

That has left WNBA teams constantly scrambling to come to cities for games or leave afterward. Last month, the Minnesota Lynx arrived in Washington at midnight after their original flight was canceled for a 3-hour game, a second had mechanical problems and the team and crew were forced to take separate planes.

Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said the league had explored several options, but without a major commitment from a sponsor, charter flights for all teams would hurt the WNBA’s financial health. The league declined to comment Monday.

“No one wants this more than me, but no one is out,” Engelbert said in June. “No owner, no airline, no corporate sponsor comes out and says, ‘We’re ready to fund the WNBA’s charter program.’ [path] To him – if we can build the economic model, get more corporate sponsorships, get more revenue.

In a statement Monday night on behalf of the players’ union, Ogyumike called the WNBA’s travel situation a “serious health and safety risk,” adding, “We reiterate our continued call for the league and team ownership to work together and identify a manageable solution to this problem. … teams starting in the 2022 WNBA Playoffs.” It’s time to allow them to invest in charter flights between games and pursue a common-sense solution from 2023 onwards.

The league announced last month that it will provide charter flights to all WNBA Finals games this season.

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