WNBA Struggles With Travel In A Pandemic

WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 15: Natasha Cloud #9 of the Washington Mystics reacts to a play during the second half of the game against the Chicago Sky at Entertainment & Sports Arena on May 15, 2021 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

Travel is once again a hot topic of conversation in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), as a number of players missed games this week after testing positive for Coronavirus (COVID-19).

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Natasha Cloud, Breanna Stewart, and Epiphanny Prince all sat out of their teams’ respective games due to health and safety protocols.

It’s impossible to know if players contracted the virus while flying, but the lack of mask mandates while flying economy has a number of WNBA athletes frustrated.

“On commercial flights, trying to have a Covid free season…while being surrounded by random people not wearing masks,” Cloud wrote on Twitter in April.


After testing positive this week, Cloud followed up on her sentiments, writing on Instagram: “Go to practice…I go straight home. Go to games…go straight home. Fly commercial next to random-ass people not wearing a mask…COVID”.

Breanna Stewart similarly took the league to task after missing the Storm’s loss to Phoenix on Wednesday night.

“Fly commercial they said…” she wrote on Twitter.

The pandemic presents an obvious problem for WNBA players flying commercial, but players are becoming increasingly vocal about the other downsides.


Earlier this year, Sports Illustrated reported that New York Liberty owner Joe Tsai had figured out a way for players to fly charter for the next three years, a claim the league disputes.

Commissioner Cathy Englebert said in March that the $20 million necessary to charter flights every year is too steep a cost for the league to handle.

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The Aces’ Kelsey Plum implied the setup was a factor in her team’s loss to the Washington Mystics on Tuesday night.

“I think I’m the best-conditioned player in this league, respectfully, and I feel like to play that type of game against Seattle [on Sunday night], then to get on a delayed flight for five and a half hours, fly across the country, wake up and play the next day — I mean, I was tired today,” Plum said.

There’s only one way for the WNBA to make this problem go away, and the league appears reluctant to take the next step.

Players have to advocate for better conditions when their safety is on the line, meaning this is likely not the last time we’ll hear about this issue.

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