‘Fly commercial they say’: Breanna Stewart slams the WNBA’s refusal to use chartered flights

Seattle Storm star Breanna Stewart is blaming the WNBA’s insistence on flying commercial for her recent positive COVID-19 test.

Stewart and teammate Epiphanny Prince were both declared out for Wednesday night’s game in Phoenix because they entered the league’s health and safety protocols, which is an indication that they tested positive for the virus.

Tweeting in response to that announcement, Stewart quipped: ‘Fly commercial they say…’

‘Fly commercial they say’: Breanna Stewart slams the WNBA’s refusal to use chartered flights

Seattle Storm star Breanna Stewart (No. 30) is blaming the WNBA’s insistence on flying commercial for her recent positive COVID-19 test

Stewart and teammate Epiphanny Prince were both declared out for Wednesday night's game in Phoenix because they entered the league's health and safety protocols, which is an indication that they tested positive for the virus.  Tweeting in response to that announcement, Stewart quipped: 'Fly commercial they say…'

Stewart and teammate Epiphanny Prince were both declared out for Wednesday night’s game in Phoenix because they entered the league’s health and safety protocols, which is an indication that they tested positive for the virus. Tweeting in response to that announcement, Stewart quipped: ‘Fly commercial they say…’

The WNBA’s reliance on commercial flights, as opposed to charters, has been a major point of contention between players and the league. For instance on Tuesday, when it was revealed that Mystics guard Natasha Cloud tested positive for COVID-19, the Washington star posted a similar message on Twitter.

‘Shoutout to the @WNBA for flying us commercial during a pandemic,’ she wrote. ‘(And no mask mandates) Go mystics.’

The federal mask mandate was lifted by the FAA last month, potentially increasing players’ risk to coronavirus exposure.

In March, the WNBA fined the New York Liberty $500,000 for secretly using charter flights during the 2021 season in violation of the league’s collective-bargaining agreement. Sports Illustrated reported at the time that Liberty took eight charter flights, including a trip to Napa, California.

Upgrading travel is a point of emphasis for the union, but Commissioner Cathy Engelbert (pictured) told the New York Times in March that it's not a possibility if it threatens the 'financial health of the league'

Upgrading travel is a point of emphasis for the union, but Commissioner Cathy Engelbert (pictured) told the New York Times in March that it’s not a possibility if it threatens the ‘financial health of the league’

The CBA allows for players to fly in premium economy but considers first class tickets and charter flights to be an unfair competitive advantage because some teams cannot afford such a luxury – and that fact could hurt those organizations in the eyes of free agents.

The downside for players is more than just potential exposure to COVID-19. Teams in the NBA-owned WNBA often make several connecting flights for road games, while their male counterparts fly direct, reducing travel time significantly.

Liberty owner Joe Tsai voiced concerns about the policy back in October and said he and Engelbert were trying to find a sponsor to pay for the chartered flights, although a deal has yet to come to fruition.

‘League says you can’t fly charter because different owners have different financial circumstances,’ Tsai tweeted in October. ‘I’m working with Commissioner [Cathy] Englebert (sic) to find a charter sponsor. Conversations with airline CEOs going well. They get the idea of ​​equity for women athletes.’

But progress has apparently stalled in this area. In March, Engelbert estimated that it would cost the WNBA an addition $20 million per season to fly all 12 teams on charter flights, and that price does not necessarily reflect the surging price of fuel.

In response, union executive director Terri Jackson said she believes that a solution can be reached: ‘The league is young, but it’s old enough. We can figure this out.’

Liberty owner Joe Tsai said last year that he and Englebert (sic) were working to find a sponsor to help the team fly chartered jets, but a deal has yet to come to fruition

Liberty owner Joe Tsai said last year that he and Englebert (sic) were working to find a sponsor to help the team fly chartered jets, but a deal has yet to come to fruition

The WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks are seen after a commercial flight in 2019

The WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks are seen after a commercial flight in 2019

Washington's Natasha Cloud (pictured) is one of many players focused on WNBA travel issues

Washington’s Natasha Cloud (pictured) is one of many players focused on WNBA travel issues

Like Stewart, Washington's Natasha Cloud blamed commercial flights for her positive test

Like Stewart, Washington’s Natasha Cloud blamed commercial flights for her positive test

Not only has the league been criticized by its players, but NBA stars such as the Portland Trail Blazers Josh Hart also took aim at the WNBA.

‘This is trash and @WNBA yall got to get better,’ Hart tweeted on March 1.

The New York Liberty flew chartered flights several times last season, resulting in a $500,000 fine for the team

The New York Liberty flew chartered flights several times last season, resulting in a $500,000 fine for the team

The issue has been so bad in the past that some players paid their own money to upgrade their seats, including 6-foot-8 Liz Cambage, a perennial All-Star who is now in her first season with the Los Angeles Sparks.

Upgrading travel remains a point of emphasis for the union, but Engelbert told the New York Times in March that it’s not a possibility if it threatens the ‘financial health of the league.’

‘We are trying to build revenue and financial models that support better things for the players in the long term, but this is not something that we can afford today,’ she said.

Engelbert did not disclose league revenue, but said the WNBA is valued at $475 million by itself and more than $1 billion with all 12 franchises included.

Jackson said the union is trying to make small changes – ones that won’t threaten its long-term viability.

‘We didn’t go into negotiations to break the bank,’ she told the Times. ‘We care too much about this league. But we want to be supported. The players want to be supported and valued, not taken advantage of.’

The WNBA did not immediately respond to DailyMail.com’s request for comment.

Former NBA guard and head coach Derek Fisher (left) smiles as he and his Los Angeles Sparks travel commercial during the 2019 season

Former NBA guard and head coach Derek Fisher (left) smiles as he and his Los Angeles Sparks travel commercial during the 2019 season

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