The 2022 WNBA season is officially in its stretch run, and there are four teams vying for the eighth and final spot in the playoffs that are currently separated by just one game in the standings. One of those teams is the Los Angeles Sparks, who earned a thrilling victory over the Washington Mystics, 79-76, on Sunday in DC to keep their playoff dreams alive.
Unfortunately, it’s what happened after the game that’s drawing headlines right now.
The Sparks were set to fly back to Los Angeles at 1 a.m. Their flight was reportedly delayed multiple times before being postponed until 9 a.m. on Monday morning. There weren’t enough hotel beds available for the players and staff, so some of them had to spend the night in the airport. That includes former WNBA MVP Nneka Ogwumike.
Ogwumike and her younger sister Chiney — who you also might know from her role as an ESPN NBA analyst — took a video from the airport where they spent the night. Watch the video here:
Here’s what Ogwumike said on the video:
“We’re roaming the airport. It’s the first time in my 11 seasons that I’ve ever had to sleep in the airport.” “But based on travel … It was only a matter of time. So, half of us are sleeping in the airport. Half of us are at a hotel. There weren’t enough rooms.”
Ogwumike is also the president of the WNBA Players Association.
A Sparks assistant coach tweeted this image:
WNBA teams fly on commercial flights, while NBA teams and most high-major college programs charter flights. Travel has been a huge pain for players in the league for years. Earlier this summer, Las Vegas Aces star Kelsey Plum said the airplanes were her toughest competition this season:
Wnba reporter: “who’s the toughest competitor you’ve faced this season?”
Me: the airlines, just brutal
— Kelsey Plum (@Kelseyplum10) July 18, 2022
Last season, the New York Liberty were fined $500K for providing charter flights to games because the league viewed it as an unfair competitive advantage.
This is another black eye for the league. Imagine an NBA team needing to sleep in an airport before a game that could decide their playoff fate. It would never happen.
The Sparks host the Connecticut Sun on Tuesday night in Los Angeles. Travel will continue to be a huge problem for the league until it finally addresses it.