Phoenix Mercury owner Mat Ishbia became the latest WNBA name to throw support behind charter flights.
While the league has expanded its charter flight program this season, teams still will travel on commercial flights to most of their games. Ishbia would like to expand charter flight coverage, telling ESPN on Sunday he would like to see the league move “in that direction.”
“I feel like you invest in the players, you invest in the team, you do all the right (things) and money follows,” Ishbia said. “Too many people think about the other way around, and, so, that’s my belief system.
“The WNBA is doing some good things and the commissioner’s doing good things to move it in that direction. And I respect what they’re doing and I’m definitely a supporter of getting there faster and sooner.”
WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert has said that charter flights for every team for an entire season would total about $25 million.
For Ishbia, who took over as Mercury owner in February, the investment would be worth it.
“Everything matters. Every inch matters,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s the middle seat, whether it’s walking through a big airport, whether it’s having a bus somewhere, I don’t know what the inch is, but we want to fix all the inches to give us a best chance and that’s what we want to do. And so we got to follow all the rules. As the owner here, I learned a lot of the rules and make sure I follow them exactly to the T, and we’ll make sure we follow all the rules.
“But we’re going to make sure we do everything within our power, within the rules to make it of our women, our players have the best chance to (play at their) peak performance, whether it’s medically, whether it’s rest-wise, whether it’s in the hotels … I’m pushing all of the envelopes to make sure that our team has all the best of everything.”
The conversation around WNBA travel has grown over the past few seasons, and New York Liberty star Breanna Stewart made it a key topic in her free agency in the offseason.
Additionally, concerns have been raised about Mercury center Brittney Griner’s security after her 10-month detention in Russia in 2022. While the team hasn’t revealed their travel plans for Griner, the team is ensuring that she feels safe, Ishbia said.
“We’re doing everything we possibly can to make sure BG feels wonderful, feels safe, all our players feel that way,” he said. “And I think there’s a lot of things that we’ve done a great job of doing to put those concerns at ease.”