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Natasha Cloud, other stars call out the WNBA’s travel policies

Natasha Cloud entered the WNBA’s health and safety protocols Tuesday. (Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)

The WNBA’s travel woes have carried over into the 2022 season. Many players have blasted the league for refusing to arrange or even allow charter flights.

Washington Mystics guard Natasha Cloud took to Twitter to call attention to the issue after airlines dropped their mask mandates in April.

“On commercial flights, trying to have a Covid free season…while being surrounded by random people not wearing masks,” Cloud wrote.

This week, Cloud missed the Mystics’ Tuesday game against the Las Vegas Aces after entering the league’s health and safety protocols. She took to Twitter to call out the WNBA once again.

“Shoutout to the WNBA for flying us commercial during a pandemic. (And no mask mandates),” she wrote.

She further called out the policy on her Instagram stories, writing that she goes to practice and games but heads straight home afterward and hasn’t been outside “in months.”

“Fly commercial next to random a– people with no mask…COVID,” she said. “At what point do players’ safety come first? I’m doing my part.”

In a later story, she wrote that “how we travel makes it nearly impossible” to avoid COVID.

(via @t_cloud9)
(via @t_cloud9)

But health and safety issues aren’t the only concerns that players have raised in regard to the league’s travel policies.

The Aces’ Kelsey Plum said after the team’s 89-76 loss to Washington that the full travel day had left her fatigued.

“I think I’m the best conditioned player in this league, respectfully, and I feel like to play that type of game against Seattle [on Sunday night], then to get on a delayed flight for five and a half hours, fly across the country, wake up and play the next day — I mean, I was tired today,” Plum said. “If you guys have ever watched me play, I can go all day. So I don’t think it’s necessarily conditioning as it’s just the setup of the schedule.

“Let’s be real, I mean, I’m not here to blame a charter flight for the reason that we lost, but normally a team would fly out that night and have that whole day to rest and get your legs back under you and then go play the next day. So you know those little things make a difference. Hopefully we’re on our way.”

An article by The Athletic in 2019 also detailed the many issues that players and coaches have while flying coach.

Earlier this season, Diamond DeShields brought up the issue of some players being too tall to fly coach – even in premium economy seats. She showed in a video on social media just how much leg room she has at her 6-foot-1 height.

Some players choose to spend money out of pocket to upgrade their seats. Liz Cambage told the Los Angeles Times that she spends about $5,000 to $8,000 of her own money each year upgrading to first class.

“I’m not sitting in the exit row,” Cambage said. “If you’re under 6-5, you’re fine. But players like me and Brittney [Griner], that’s gonna come out of our pocket.”

In 2021, the league’s tallest players included Cambage (6-foot-8), Griner (6-foot-9) and Bernadett Hatar (6-foot-10).

The Sparks will be on the road for eight out of their 11 games in May and will have to deal with navigating airports and airplanes while also trying not to catch COVID-19.

“I personally think airports are the dirtiest places in the world,” Cambage said. “And the fact that we’re in [them] every other day, when there are owners out there that want us to fly private? And the league literally doesn’t allow it? It’s crazy to me.”

In March, commissioner Cathy Engelbert said that the more than $20 million per season cost for the league to charter flights isn’t something she feels the league could handle.

New York Liberty owner Joe Tsai, however, has said that his team had found a way to get charter flights compensated for every team in the league for three years – a claim that the WNBA has refuted. The team was fined $500,000 last season for chartering flights during the second half of the 2021 season and other rules violations.

During last year’s WNBA Finals, the league chartered flights for the Chicago Sky and Phoenix Mercury between Games 2 and 3.