UNCASVILLE, Conn. — Minnesota Lynx guard Kayla McBride settled into a folding chair after scoring 19 points in her team’s win over the Connecticut Sun on Sunday. It would have been the perfect time for McBride to sit in front of reporters and TV cameras and get her flowers.

But instead, McBride delivered a message: There would be no basketball questions answered. She would discuss player safety, mental health and chartered flights.

“Sorry,” McBride said on the way out. “We will be back to normal interviews on Tuesday, but this was important.”

McBride wasn’t the only player who chose to highlight issues plaguing the WNBA over the weekend. Elizabeth Williams of the Chicago Sky did the same in the lead-up to her team’s clash with the Phoenix Mercury.

Absent from that contest was Brittney Griner, who will miss an unspecified amount of time to focus on her mental health.

The decision once again brought travel issues in the WNBA to the forefront of conversation. Griner’s safety when traveling has been a concern since she returned to the United States in December after being wrongfully detained in a Russian prison for 10 months. The Mercury star has already endured one incident at an airport this season, increasing players’ calls for chartered flights. Under the current CBA, teams are obligated to fly commercial for competitive advantage reasons, with the exception of the playoffs, back-to-back games and the Commissioner’s Cup championship.

The WNBA is in a period of growth, with this season breaking viewership and attendance records throughout the league. Coinciding with that growth are conversations about expansion, as the league hopes to add multiple teams in the next few years.

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert says the league has done data analysis on “over 100 cities,” taking into account demographics, potential corporate partners and whether or not there is already an established women’s basketball fanbase. Places with strong markets for women’s NCAA programs are of particular interest, she says.

“It’s kind of a multi-dimensional look,” Engelbert said. “I’d say a lot of different things, but fandom and corporate partners and people need to show up and get in seats. We need to find those markets.”

Players don’t necessarily want expansion, at least not until other issues are solved. And the top concern for players right now is the ability to fly charter.

“I believe that until we have all of our priorities in check as a league, as the 12 teams that we have now, it’s hard to expand and to give resources somewhere else,” McBride said. “I think charters is number one.”

Kayla McBride is a three-time WNBA All-Star and 10-year veteran of the league. (Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

Engelbert believes the league can improve in multiple ways simultaneously.

“I think we can balance all of it,” she said on Sunday at Mohegan Sun Arena.”I think we have been chipping away at some things that I know are important to the players. But we’re still going to be fiscally responsible as well and make sure that we feel confident that the growth of the league will match the benefits we can get.”

Part of the reason Engelbert is so adamant about expansion is because she believes it could increase media rights deals for the league. Bigger deals mean more money to use on player benefits like chartered flights.

“If you bring in more expansion teams, your media rights will be more valuable because now you’re bringing in more cities to draw that fandom in,” she said. “That’s what media companies are looking for is broad reach.”

Engelbert cited the NBA as an example. When the league was in its 27th year (where the WNBA is now), players flew commercial, but that changed as the league signed more lucrative media rights deals.

“The only reason the men have (chartered flights) is because of media rights deals,” Engelbert said. “That is it.”

Engelbert added that she wants to get chartered flights for the players, but she wants them in perpetuity. And the league, she says, is getting to a place financially where that will be feasible.

“When I came into the league, I would have done it,” she said. “But I would have bankrupted the league in a year or two.

“It will cost $25-to-30 million for a full 40-game season for 12 teams, and more if we add teams. So you chip away at it until you can afford it, and how do you afford it? Media rights.”

The WNBA currently has deals with ION and ESPN running through 2025. They’ve also partnered with CBS/Paramount+, CBS Sports Network, Amazon Prime, NBA TV and Twitter to broadcast games.

In addition to travel, Engelbert addressed a couple of other issues facing the league on Sunday.

Roster expansion

Each team in the WNBA technically has 12 roster spots, making room for 144 total players. In order to get more players in the league, roster expansion — rather than team expansion — is one possibility. But it’s not one that Engelbert agrees with.

While it seems like an easy solution, the commissioner says the situation would be more complex than it appears. She worries about playing time and player development.

“It doesn’t drive anything for the league,” she said of roster expansion. “So I’d rather do a development plan for players, rather than just adding them to a roster and not getting much playing time or experience.”


Former UConn stars Breanna Stewart and Napheesa Collier recently announced the creation of Unrivaled, a 3×3 league that will take place during the WNBA’s offseason. It joins Athletes Unlimited as alternative options for players who have routinely gone overseas in the offseason to play and earn more money.

It also gives players an option that doesn’t interfere with the league’s prioritization rule, which penalizes players for missing the start of the WNBA season and makes offseason commitments difficult to navigate.

Engelbert says the WNBA supports both Unrivaled and AU.

“I think it’s a great idea. Anything that promotes the game of women’s basketball,” she said. “I would like us to become the center for all women’s basketball, whether it’s in our season or outside of our season.”

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

Former LSU basketball star Alexis Morris was met with backlash Wednesday after she took to Twitter to criticize WNBA veterans for remaining in the league too long and taking up roster spots.

The 5-9 guard was selected in the 2023 draft by the Connecticut Sun but was waived by the team last week, adding her name to the long list of roster cuts this preseason.

In a series of now-deleted tweets, Morris – who previously had spoken about the difficulties of transitioning to the WNBA – argued that if roster spots cannot be made available to the rookies then teams should “cut the vets.” But she also put some of that blame onto the veterans themselves.

“The vets gotta know when to cut the net, and pass the torch bro,” she wrote. “If you knocking at 35, hang it up and I mean WIRED HANGER ‘Hang it up.'”

Morris’ tweets caused a stir on social media, with WNBA veterans pointing to their own long and winding roads in the league.

“It’s clear people don’t understand how much we respect people’s journeys and the grind,” Los Angeles Sparks guard Lexie Brown wrote

As Minnesota Lynx guard Kayla McBride noted, rookies should be aware that everyone around them is “on their own journey too,” even if McBride doesn’t usually talk about her own.

“Don’t speak on someone else to make yourself feel better,” she wrote. “We all got stories. Just go write yours.”

McBride also noted in a later tweet that she isn’t “coming for anyone personally” and that the Lynx rookies, a group that includes No. 2 overall pick Diamond Miller, have been “great.”

“As a whole the WNBA (is) fighting for respect and each of our stories look different. And should be respected,” she wrote. “Respect the grind. Respect those around you. It’ll get you a long, long way.”

A number of the league’s rookies have been cut from WNBA rosters already, with just 18 out of 36 draftees remaining on WNBA rosters as of Thursday morning. That number could diminish as teams finalize rosters.

With just 144 roster spots available, many players have been calling for expansion in order to help with both development of players and the league.

Sydney Colson has been cut multiple times but currently is a member of the Las Vegas Aces. On Wednesday, she noted a shift in the league compared to a few seasons ago, when more veterans had been cut to save cap space.

“The interesting part is that several vets (who were still capable players) didn’t make rosters years ago because of cap space and it was cheaper to keep rookies,” she wrote. “As someone who’s been cut several, and I mean SEVERAL, times… it’s tough and not a great feeling, but it doesn’t mean it has to be the end of your career. Grind, have a chip on your shoulder, and work to get back.”

Still, other players pointed out the lack of support that rookies receive. Former WNBA player and No. 3 overall pick Devereaux Peters noted that her first four years in the league “were absolute hell” but she was able to figure it out.

“I was blessed with vets that went out of their way to help me gain my footing,” she wrote. “But also a great deal was me operating in a way I wouldn’t have preferred. But I think a lot of these younger players in general don’t really understand how this league works and we should be helping them too. Because not everyone has players to reach out to, to help them along.”

Despite deboarding her plane from Turkey at 2 p.m. Los Angeles time Monday, Kayla McBride proved instrumental in the Minnesota Lynx’ first win of the season Tuesday night, less than 36 hours after she landed in the United States.

While it felt like 6:30 a.m. in Turkey to the globe-trotting McBride, she was excited to be back with the Lynx (1-4) – especially after helping Fenerbahce Safiport to the Turkish League title on Sunday.

“The whole ride here, I’m thinking about how grateful I am to do what I do,” McBride said. “Being a professional athlete, it’s only going to last so long. So you have to grind, but the chemistry, how much we grew just tonight, is worth it.

“I understand what this Lynx culture is about. It doesn’t matter how tired I am or how jet-lagged, I want to show up and give whatever I can give. I’m super grateful that I showed up for my team, because we needed that. Whatever it was that God had intended, whatever his plan was, it was for me to be here tonight.”

McBride gave everything she had and more in the 87-84 win against the Los Angeles Sparks, playing nearly 38 minutes. She scored a team-high 24 points – including the game-winning 3-point play – without even knowing the day of the week.

“What’s today? Tuesday?” she asked to start her press conference. “It’s Tuesday, right?”

McBride rattled off four 3-pointers in the first quarter. She was joined in the 20-point club by Sylvia Fowles, who had 20 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out, and Moriah Jefferson, who had 20 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Jefferson joined Minnesota last week after being waived by Dallas.

Nneka Ogwumike had 22 points and eight rebounds for the Sparks, while Liz Cambage and Lexi Brown each had 12 points apiece.

“We knew what our challenges were, and it was necessary for us to respond to some of those challenges so we could have some stability for the long run,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “You’ve seen Kayla’s impact in terms of pace of play, that you’ve got to guard her. That just gave us another dimension.

“I knew she would be in shape because she was coming off playing [overseas]. I don’t necessarily like playing her that many minutes, but she was that good. She’s a captain of this team and wants her play to be contagious. It was all that and then some.”

McBride wasn’t going to stay on the sidelines.

“There’s no way I could’ve been sitting on the sidelines today, as exhausted as I was. That’s just kind of in my DNA,” she said. “There was no way. I’m never going to take these moments for granted. I enjoyed every moment of it, as exhausted as I was. Thirty-eight minutes? Hey, whatever. Whatever it is, rest up and that’s just kind of the name of the game the women play.”