By: TC Martin
What you are about to read is inexcusable in the land of professional sports. The Las Vegas Aces were forced to cancel an important game against the Washington Mystics due to numerous flight delays that did not allow the team to properly prepare or rest prior to it’s game Friday night. The game has been cancelled and no makeup date will be set. By electing not to play, the Aces may face the possibility of absorbing a loss if the WNBA declares a forfeit. A determination will be made this week by the league office after hearing all of the facts.
The circumstances that led to this is bizarre enough but not to reschedule a game that has playoff implications for both teams is ridiculous. The Aces are 12-15 and sit in the ninth position battling for a top eight playoff berth while the Mystics are 16-11 and are currently seeded fourth.
The Aces were scheduled to leave Las Vegas on Thursday at 1:13 pm for their Friday game in the nation’s capital at 7:00 pm EST. After several delays, the flight was cancelled leaving the team to scramble to find planes to get to DC. The only options were red eye’s, so the team booked four different flights splitting up the players and staff leaving Las Vegas between 12:30 and 1:30 am Friday morning.
After arriving in Dallas, they found more delays and players were trying to sleep in the airport. They finally arrived at their destination at 3:00 pm Friday afternoon with no time to eat, practice or be mentally prepared. Buses were scheduled to take them directly to the Capital One Center to play the game that was rescheduled to 8:00 pm. However, the team never went to the arena. After talks with the WNBA league office and it’s player association, they league granted the Aces request not to play the game.
“No shoot around. No night of sleep. No beds. No food. And you want us to play?” said an angry Kayla McBride. The players issued a statement in part saying, “Given the travel issues we faced over the past two days – 25+ hours spent in airports and airplanes, in cramped quarters and having not slept in a bed since Wednesday night and after consulting with Players Association leadership and medical professionals, we concluded that playing tonight’s game would put us at too great a risk for injury.”
The Washington Mystics didn’t share the same sentiment. “I’m really disappointed that the Las Vegas players and organization didn’t come to compete,” said Mystics coach Mike Thibault. “If you’re there and in the city and can play, you should show up and play.”
The Aces weren’t the only WNBA team with travel issues Friday. The Indiana Fever were supposed to fly to New York for their game against the Liberty on Saturday. The Fever sat at the airport for three hours before being told their flight was canceled because of weather. The Fever, who had a travel party of 20 people, were planning on flying to New York on Saturday morning to play a game at 3:00pm.
All of this could be avoided if the league would treat it’s players and teams similarly to the other major sports leagues, considering they are a partner of the NBA. WNBA teams aren’t allowed to fly charter because of the cost and the competitive advantage it could give some teams willing to spend the money. With already controversy over low player salaries, condensed scheduling and marketing and travel woes, the league needs to step up and increasing operating budgets for the best female players in the world.