all scores

Breanna Stewart makes charter flights key piece in free agency

Breanna Stewart leads a talented pack of WNBA free agents. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Former WNBA MVP and current top free agent Breanna Stewart has made charter flights a key factor in her decision-making, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported Sunday.

The issue has become a focal point in free agency discussions around the WNBA, league sources told ESPN. Across the last several seasons, players have called for change to the WNBA’s travel policy, which does not allow charter flights.

People connected to the league expect Brittney Griner will need to fly privately for the 2023 season due to security concerns. The free agent was imprisoned in Russia for nearly 10 months before the U.S. government secured her release in December. She has made clear her plans to play again for the Phoenix Mercury, though she has not yet asked for any travel accommodations, ESPN reported.

If Griner is allowed to fly privately, would the exception extend to the rest of her team? And if the Mercury are allowed to fly privately, what would that mean for the rest of the league?

Under the current collective bargaining agreement, teams are not allowed to charter private flights. In 2021, the New York Liberty were fined $500,000 by the league for chartering flights in the second half of the season.

Stewart took to Twitter on Sunday to raise the issue, noting that she would be willing to contribute her own money to ensure WNBA teams could travel on private flights.

“I would love to be part of a deal that helps subsidize charter travel for the entire WNBA,” she wrote. “I would contribute my NIL, posts + production hrs to ensure we all travel in a way that prioritizes player health + safety, which ultimately results in a better product.”

Other players indicated their willingness to help, including WNBPA president Nneka Ogwumike, former Finals MVP Kahleah Copper and four-time WNBA champion Sue Bird. NBA star Ja Morant tweeted his willingness to help as well, writing, “Count me in.”

It is estimated that chartering travel for all teams could cost close to $30 million, per ESPN.

Stewart is considering four teams in free agency, she revealed Friday: the Liberty, the Seattle Storm, the Minnesota Lynx and the Washington Mystics.