Angel City FC charter flights suggest prioritizing athlete welfare more than WNBA
LOS ANGELES — A sea of pink and black jerseys filled the Banc of California stadium as Angel City FC faced off in their season-opening National Women’s Soccer League home game. A screaming crowd of 22,000 fans watched a team that is not only embraced by the community, but has emerged, along with the league, as a face of progression.
While the club went to a 4-1-4 record, they also enjoyed travel perks not available to their WNBA counterparts.
Recently, he took a charter flight to Kentucky for a game against Racing Louisville FC and ended a three-game losing streak.
“At this point in our season we want to focus on just the football and nothing else that could be a distraction, and travel can certainly be a distraction,” captain Ali Riley said.
Unlike the WNBA, the NWSL has the ability to rent if a team wishes. The league and players’ association reached their first collective bargaining agreement ahead of Angel City FC’s inaugural game. The NWSL made history by becoming the first women’s professional sports league to gain airline sponsorship, Delta Airlines
Delta, which also sponsors Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Football Club, offers commercial travel to all NWSL teams. In MLS, teams are not required to provide chartered air transportation, although the CBA does not prohibit teams from doing so. Likewise, the NWSL allows teams to rent if they have the money to do so.
The WNBA has no such provisions. In fact, the league fined New York Liberty owner Joseph Tsai $500,000 for the club’s use of charter flights during the second half of the 2021 season.
Following the fine, the Liberty sent an unofficial proposal to the WNBA Board of Governors to make charter flights the primary form of transportation for the league, similar to the NBA. However, the league said charter flights provided a competitive advantage over teams that could not afford them, and the proposal was rejected.
The female football players sympathize with the grueling schedule that many WNBA teams face each season and understand that the fight for equal treatment cannot be fought alone.
“Stealing isn’t good for anyone, whether you’re an athlete or not,” Houston Dash goaltender Jane Campbell said. “Being able to charter just speeds up your recovery, especially when you have fast turnarounds. I know it’s expensive but to be professional you have to pay the price.
“I hope one day we get there, and I hope the WNBA gets there because they deserve it.”
The Phoenix Mercurys have been open about their frustration. After a game against the Los Angeles Sparks in May, Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard complained about the unfairness.
“I mean, we just started an eight-day road trip,” she said. “We leave at 7 am to go to the airport and fly to Atlanta. It’s a long flight and if we were an NBA team, we’d be leaving right after the game. Everything would be really taken care of.
Four consecutive road games fell midway through this trip and the Mercury lost them all. The team battled injuries, early morning flights and COVID-19 issues during the stretch. These issues, Nygaard said, contributed to the team’s poor performance.
Later in the season, Mercury All-Star Skylar-Diggins-Smith tweeted his frustration with WNBA travel standards after an 83-65 loss to the Washington Mystics.
“Flying the same day as the game will never suit me!” she wrote. “Back-to-back away games should never be scheduled as we are flying commercially (without security). The W (WNBA) wants quality/high level basketball, but doesn’t (seem to) care about the player’s quality of life.
Flying the same day as the game will never appeal to me!
Back-to-back matches should never be scheduled, as we are flying commercial (without security).
The W wants quality/high level basketball, but does not (seem to) value the quality of life of the players 🧐
— Skylar Diggins-Smith (@SkyDigg4) June 15, 2022
Meanwhile, NWSL teams appear to be in a much better headspace.
Run by women, Angel City FC is founded by actress Natalie Portman and businesswomen Kara Nortman and Julie Uhrman. The team captivated Los Angeles fans with the help of star investors such as actress Gabrielle Union, singer Becky G and comedian Lilly Singh.
Singh can often be found in the supporters’ section, mingling and singing along with the fans, adding to the Hollywood atmosphere.
The club is the first in the NWSL to have an official team anthem, “Running with the Angels,” performed by Grammy-winning artist Brittany Howard and California recording artist Tia P. The song serves as a shout out to rallying fans before the game and highlights the uniqueness of the club.
If someone still says that women can’t do hard things, that we can’t do great things, and that we don’t deserve to be treated the same, we’re proving them wrong.” , Riley said.