The lack of access to charter flights for WNBA players has long been a league controversy. Players from Liz Cambage to Sabrina Ionescu have voiced frustration about squeezing in cramped seats and facing delays and cancellations during tight game schedules.
Last week, the controversy reached a crescendo when a bombshell Sports Illustrated report revealed that the WNBA fined the New York Liberty $500,000 for providing charter flights to players — and considered shutting down the team.
In an interview with ESPN, commissioner Cathy Engelbert doubled down on the league’s stance, saying it could not afford to fund charter flights:
- “It would be more than $20 million a year to fund charter flights for an entire WNBA season,” Engelbert said.
- The only way the league could afford charter flights now is if “sponsors or supporters” agreed to fund them.
When the league announced a $75 million capital raise last month, Engelbert similarly told reporters the money wouldn’t fund charter flights.
Liberty’s Flights Grounded
The league sanctioned the Liberty because it technically violated the WNBA’s CBA by providing flights, per SI.
Liberty owner Joe Tsai allegedly presented a proposal to get charter flights for all teams, though the WNBA denied the proposal had ever been made.