July 20, 2022 

Reeve: ‘No communication’ from WNBA over travel issues

'I thought we deserve more respect than that'

Cheryl Reeve thought this might happen. It wasn’t her first time experiencing travel issues in the WNBA. She had been through similar situations in the past. Everyone who’s been involved in the league as long as she has has gone through them at least once.

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The Minnesota Lynx, fresh off a back-to-back and (supposedly) headed to Washington to play their fourth game in six nights, were stuck in Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Their American Airlines flight had been canceled. 

Reeve, as she is wont to do when situations such as these occur, reached out to WNBA leadership. She wanted to forewarn them that her team may have some trouble getting to Washington and notify them before word got out on social media. At the time, it wasn’t clear whether they would even be able to get to Washington in time for the 3 p.m. ET tip the following afternoon. As such, Reeve wanted to inquire about the possibility of pushing back the opening tip to later in the day. 

The WNBA leadership’s response? Radio silence.

“There was no communication with the leadership of the Minnesota Lynx,” Reeve told media members prior to her team’s 70-57 loss to the Mystics. “That, to me, is an epic fail. When you go through these things, it’s unfortunate. Nobody’s blaming anyone, but let’s work through it. It’s unacceptable that that didn’t happen. Was there consideration given [to changing the game time]? I have no idea.”

Reeve said “it was leaked” to her later that the league had been in contact with the Mystics about the Lynx’s travel issues and the possibility of changing the game time was discussed, but ultimately Washington declined due to myriad reasons, including an anticipated large crowd to celebrate Japanese Heritage Day. (Mystics guard Rui Machida is Japanese and has a large following, both in America and in her home country.)

“I’m tired of hearing about it. I’m tired of reading about it on Twitter. I’m tired about it,” Washington head coach Mike Thibault said of travel issues in the WNBA when asked about the Lynx’s predicament prior to the game. (He mimicked crying and rubbing his eyes before answering, an action he has since apologized for. Reeve quickly accepted the apology.) 

“It happens to every team. And I get it. Every team would like to come in feeling fully refreshed. But [the Lynx] got here last night. They didn’t play yesterday. They didn’t play yesterday and I know it’s a long day, but everybody goes through that. We took a train, you know, six hours and then got on a bus for another hour and a half earlier in the year to play in Connecticut … That’s just life. And I’d like to feel sorry for them, but I’m sorry, I don’t.”

Thibault later apologized to Reeve on Twitter about the comments, and Reeve accepted that apology.

Additionally, the WNBA did not respond to requests from The Next for comment on Reeve’s statements as well as further information.

At its core, there were two issues at play as the Lynx sat on the tarmac wondering whether they’d ever get to Washington.

The first was the inherent difficulty of travel in the WNBA. At this point, it’s well-known that WNBA teams travel commercially and not in private jets like their NBA counterparts. And not only do they not travel privately, but the league has sought to punish teams significantly if they are caught doing so.

The Next’s Howard Megdal reported in Sports Illustrated earlier this year that the league fined the New York Liberty $500,000 after they were made aware that owners Joe and Clara Wu Tsai chartered planes for team travel during the second half of the 2021 season. 

The current league collective bargaining agreement, which is signed off on by both the owners and players’ association, prohibits ownership from chartering planes for their teams, but many have called into question why such a stipulation exists. (For a more detailed explanation of the situation, read Howard’s piece here.) 

For all intents and purposes, Reeve’s frustration with last Saturday’s travel woes was not with this issue. It is understood by all parties involved that travel can be an issue, particularly in 2022, when airline companies across the world are canceling flights and delaying travel daily.

Her — as well as her athletes’ — frustration also didn’t appear to be based on Washington’s unwillingness to push back the start of the game or make other accommodations for the Lynx. The Mystics’ explanations regarding why moving the game would be almost impossible made sense. Also, they’re the home team and in the thick of the playoff race. They get to call the shots, and all is fair in love and sport.

No, the WNBA leadership’s lack of communication with the Lynx was the focus of her ire. 

“I just shared [with WNBA leadership], once it was all said and done and [we were] finally on our flight, that I don’t think it’s acceptable that I don’t get a response,” Reeve said. “I can’t control how other people treat us and what WNBA leadership thinks of us or me. I thought we deserve more respect than that and I thought I deserve more respect than that.”

Written by Lucas Seehafer

Lucas Seehafer is a general reporter for The Next. He is also a physical therapist and professor at the undergraduate level. His work has previously appeared at Baseball Prospectus, Forbes, FanSided, and various other websites.

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