As of the time I’m writing this, which is about 5 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 28, Breanna Stewart hasn’t decided which team she will play for in the 2023 WNBA season. The Washington Mystics are one of the teams she met with last week, so what could separate the Mystics (or anyone else) from the others?
It may be chartered flights.
Last week, Stewart wrote that she would be willing to contribute money toward chartered flights for this season. WNBA teams only fly commercial when on road trips. Note that Stewart tweeted that she wanted the entire league to fly charter.
I would love to be part of a deal that helps subsidize charter travel for the entire WNBA.— Breanna Stewart (@breannastewart) January 22, 2023
I would contribute my NIL, posts + production hrs to ensure we all travel in a way that prioritizes player health + safety, which ultimately results in a better product.
Who’s with me?
I’m not sure if the WNBA is in a supposed financial position to do what Stewart wants, whether she contributes money toward chartered flights or not.
Let’s assume that the WNBA does NOT suddenly agree to do chartered flights this season. If this is the case, Stewart is daring a team to risk league sanctions by doing chartered flights. One team, the Phoenix Mercury, the team Brittney Griner plays for, is expected to do charter flights due to her recent and wrongful detention in Russia last year. Stewart didn’t speak to the Mercury, so she is asking the Mystics, New York Liberty, Minnesota Lynx and/or Seattle Storm to offer such flights, even if it breaks league rules.
Liberty owner Joe Tsai has done unauthorized charter flights in past seasons, which earned him the respect of New York’s players, but also the ire of the league. All other things being equal on the basketball-only front, I wouldn’t be surprised if Stewart is eyeing New York, the most, wondering if Tsai would break the rules again.
Glen Taylor owns the Lynx, but they will soon be transferred to a group that includes former MLB star Alex Rodriguez. Could Minnesota be willing to do such a thing as well?
The Seattle Storm are owned by Force 10 Hoops, an all-female ownership group. While the Storm have done well on the basketball court, winning three of their four WNBA championships under their leadership, I haven’t seen any report of any of the Storm’s owners being worth billions. So, I would think, anecdotally, that the Storm can’t afford to do chartered flights all season long like the Liberty’s ownership.
Finally, there’s Ted Leonsis’ Monumental Sports & Entertainment. Based on his tenure owning the Wizards NBA team, Leonsis doesn’t seem like the kind of owner who will go above and beyond a hard salary cap (like the luxury tax line for the Wizards) or an as-of-now-unauthorized benefit like chartered flights during the regular season. But the Mystics are also viewed today as one of the WNBA’s best-run teams. That would be a major selling point that Washington can point out that most others simply can’t.
Given WNBA players’ demands for chartered flights, I wouldn’t be shocked to see them for the regular season. But again, if the league stays firm about not allowing them in most circumstances, do you think that could be the difference between Stewart signing with a team or not? Let us know in the comments below.