Nneka Ogwumike (left) and her Los Angeles Sparks teammates react to a play.Adam Hagy/NBAE through Getty Photographs

  • Gamers on the Los Angeles Sparks had been compelled to spend the evening in an airport as a consequence of flight delays.

  • The journey woes got here because the group fights for a highly-contested spot within the 2022 WNBA playoffs.

  • The WNBA group has been at odds over the league’s industrial flight insurance policies for years.

Catastrophe struck for the Los Angeles Sparks this weekend.

Like each different group within the WNBA, Los Angeles travels to and from video games on industrial flights. However on Sunday, after wrapping up a four-game highway journey with a 79-76 win over the Washington Mystics, the Sparks bumped into bother on the airport in DC.

Their red-eye had been delayed, then delayed once more, till lastly the flight was postponed till the next morning. Some gamers and employees members had been compelled to sleep over on the airport because of this, and assistant coach Latricia Trammell was understandably essential of the lodging:

Whereas the franchise managed to supply all the group the choice to remain in a resort, as sharpshooter Lexie Brown confirmed on Twitter, some gamers opted to remain on the terminal as a result of fast turnaround Monday morning.

“We’re roaming the airport,” seven-time WNBA All-Star Nneka Ogwumike mentioned in a video posted to Twitter, along with her sister and Sparks teammate, Chiney, strolling beside her. “It is the primary time in my 11 seasons that I’ve ever needed to sleep within the airport, however based mostly on journey… it was solely a matter of time.”

“Half of us are sleeping on the airport, half of us are at a resort; there weren’t sufficient rooms after our flight bought delayed, delayed, delayed after which canceled at 1 a.m.,” she added. “It’s now 1:44 and we’re right here til 9 a.m.”

Although Sunday could have been Ogwumike’s first profession airport sleepover, it was removed from her first run-in with journey points whereas taking part in within the league. For years, delays, cancellations, and different transportation woes have sparked debates throughout the WNBA panorama as as to whether groups needs to be allowed to constitution flights.

By and enormous, the gamers, coaches, and followers say “sure.” Among the homeowners and the league executives, together with WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert, say “no” — or at the very least not but. The WNBA declined to touch upon the state of affairs with the Sparks.

As of now, as a consequence of guidelines specified by the WNBA’s 2020 Collective Bargaining Settlement (CBA), possession teams are usually not permitted to constitution planes for gamers and employees. Simply final yr, the league slapped the New York Liberty with a historic $500,000 high quality after billionaire franchise proprietor Joe Tsai flew his group personal in the course of the second half of the season.

Team owner Joe Tsai high fives New York Liberty players.

Group proprietor Joe Tsai excessive fives New York Liberty gamers.AP Photograph/Mary Altaffer

Gamers had been outraged by the revelation that homeowners refused a plan to constitution flights for each group within the league for a full three years as a result of they feared the athletes would “get used to” the remedy. However a number of the much less rich group homeowners and Engelbert alike insist that the hefty price ticket for constitution flights can be prohibitive.

WNBA legend Sylvia Fowles — the league’s all-time rebounding chief — cites journey because the “one factor that frustrates me essentially the most” in regards to the league. And first-year Las Vegas Aces head coach Becky Hammon argues that journey effectivity “instantly impacts the product on the ground that you just’re promoting to the general public.”

Within the Sparks’ case, it could additionally have an effect on the results of their season.

Nneka Ogwumike.

Ogwumike.AP Photograph/Michael Conroy

Los Angeles is house to one in all six groups competing for 3 remaining bids to the 2022 WNBA playoffs, and one in all 5 with near-identical data. With lower than every week remaining within the common season, every of the Sparks’ last three video games shall be make-or-break for his or her postseason hopes.

They’ve one Tuesday evening, lower than 36 hours after their long-awaited arrival again in Los Angeles. Whether or not that’ll give gamers sufficient time to relaxation, recuperate, and return to the courtroom prepared for battle nonetheless stays to be seen.

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