The New York Liberty have a home game on Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn against the Connecticut Sun. At least, that’s what the schedule says. Delta Airlines might have other ideas about it.
The Liberty already were on a rough road trip, which started with a flight that was supposed to leave New York on Thursday at 2:00 p.m. After nine hours at the airport as major thunderstorms rolled through, that flight was canceled, and the Liberty wound up arriving in Indianapolis at 11:30 a.m. on Friday morning… seven and a half hours before game time.
That the Liberty even managed to be competitive with the Fever in an 82-69 loss is remarkable, as anyone who’s tried to function as a human being the day after such a travel nightmare can attest. But the real kick in the pants came as the Liberty tried to return to New York and prepare for that game against Connecticut.
Assuming that the rescheduled flight goes off without a hitch, the Liberty would step off a plane at LaGuardia Airport at 9 a.m., about five hours before their scheduled tip-off with the Sun. Would they even have time to go home and drop off their bags before heading to Brooklyn for their second game in three days amid multiple travel nightmares? And again, that’s if the Liberty get out of Indianapolis on time on Sunday — there are thunderstorms in the forecast on and off throughout the weekend there.
The WNBA’s collective bargaining agreement guarantees “Premium Economy class status (such as Comfort/Economy Plus) for all players for regular-season air travel.” But so long as teams are flying commercial instead of getting chartered flights, this kind of scenario is bound to happen.
In the meantime, the league needs to reschedule the Liberty-Sun game, because it’s ludicrous to expect anyone to spend all this time stuck in airports, then roll in off the tarmac and try to play sports at an elite professional level — if they even make it back to New York in time to play.
UPDATE, 2:31 p.m.: According to Jones, the Liberty just might make it out of Indianapolis on Saturday afternoon, after all. Of course, the way their last few days have gone, it’s a “believe it when it happens” situation.
UPDATE, 3:28 p.m.: About that idea that the Liberty would get out of Indianapolis on a 3:30 flight... no. According to FlightAware, as that promised hour of departure approached, the plane that was supposed to fly the team back to New York was still on its way to Indianapolis, flying over western Ohio.
The weather has been improving, so it does look like the nightmare scenario of the Liberty stepping off a plane at LaGuardia and onto the court in Brooklyn on Sunday won’t play out. But it’s certainly still the case that 25 years into the league’s existence, WNBA teams ought to be flying charters and not at the whims of commercial aviation.
UPDATE, 4:40 p.m.: Not only did the Liberty finally get on a plane to head back home to New York...
...team owner Joe Tsai pledged that he’s going to “solve this transportation problem for good.”
It’s not just the right thing for Tsai to do, but the smart thing as the owner of a basketball team. There are only so many things you can control in sports, and getting your team on chartered flights so that they can avoid being held up in airport terminals for hours on end, or stranded overnight — let alone not having to have players sit next to sneezy Steve in 12B — is a way to help the team perform at its best.