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WNBA announces Friday’s canceled game will count as a forfeit by the Aces

WNBA: Washington Mystics at Minnesota Lynx Michael Zamora-USA TODAY Sports

The WNBA released a statement on Tuesday afternoon declaring last Friday’s game between the Mystics and the Aces will go down as a forfeit for Las Vegas. As a result, the Mystics pick up a victory and move up into third in the WNBA standings, a half-game behind the Dream for the second seed and an automatic double bye in the playoffs. Las Vegas now drops 2.5 games behind the Dallas Wings for eighth and final seed in the playoffs.

Friday’s game was canceled after a series of flight delays kept the Aces from arriving in Washington until late Friday afternoon. The team cited player safety as the reason they chose not to play in their press release after the cancellation:

Given the travel issues we faced over the past two days,—25+ hours spent in airports and airplanes, in cramped quarters and having not slept in a bed since Wednesday night—and after consulting with Players Association leadership and medical professionals, we concluded that playing tonight’s game would put us at too great a risk for injury.

Naturally, the issue of player safety is of paramount concern for all involved in the WNBA. This issue is bigger than our team and this one unfortunate set of circumstances, and we look forward to being a part of future discourse in the hope of preventing such incidents in the future.

Mystics GM and Coach Mike Thibault spoke with SB Nation’s Matt Ellentuck after Friday’s cancellation and disagreed with the Aces’ stance:

I talked to [Vegas Aces head coach] Bill [Laimbeer] earlier in the day and they were [in D.C.]. They should’ve showed up. It’s that simple to me. Every team in every sport goes through a day like this or two days like this somewhere in a one- or two-year period. It happens. It’s happened to me in this league several times, the NBA, the CBA. There wasn’t a snowstorm, they got here.

So your obligation is to play. Everybody gets tired. For them to say they were tired... shoot... we played this year in Seattle on a back-to-back after we played in L.A. It was a 4 o’clock in the afternoon game in L.A., it was a 4 o’clock game in Seattle, we took a red-eye and got to the hotel at 4 o’clock in the morning. We were tired. But you play, that’s part of what you get paid for.

Kristi Toliver echoed Thibault’s sentiment:

I think it was pretty unprofessional. It’s disappointing for our fans, for our league to forfeit a game. Everybody’s been delayed. We dealt with it this year, it’s just life, it’s how it is. But you still have to show up to work.

Hopefully this is something the WNBA can address in the future. Whether you agree or disagree with the Aces’ decision and how the league managed it, the league needs to do a better job of putting their players in a position where they don’t have to decide between forfeiting or potentially jeopardizing their health.