Breanna Stewart is not giving up on her goal of getting charter travel for the WNBA. During her introductory press conference with the New York Liberty, the two-time WNBA champion said this is a topic that needs to continued to be talked about.
"I think that when we talk about pushing the needle and raising the bar and elevating the WNBA, it's also that," Stewart said. "It's also player health and wellness, and what's going to make us be able to travel cross country or whatever the case may be and be ready to play our best."
Breanna Stewart on charter flights for WNBA players: "We're fighting to elevate the standard." pic.twitter.com/npNrpPhfYy— YES Network (@YESNetwork) February 9, 2023
The current collective bargaining between the WNBA and the WNBA Players Association does not allow charter flights because, as league commissioner Cathy Engelbert said, the cost of charter travel would "jeopardize the financial health" of the WNBA. In a recent interview with the Associated Press, Engelbert said the estimated cost would be up to $25 million per year and that the league would need a commitment to it in perpetuity.
Stewart has been very public about wanting to make it happen. On Jan. 22, she tweeted she would be willing to contribute her NIL, posts and production hours to help with the cost, while also asking who else would want to help.
Team owners are not allowed to pay for their own teams because of competitive balance rules, which is the reason the New York Liberty got hit with a league-record $500,000 fine after owners Joe and Clara Wu Tsai paid for charter flights during the 2021 season.
"When talking to Clara and Joe, they also feel the same way. We are fighting to elevate the standard," Stewart said.
In the same press conference, Clara Wu Tsai said she would get fined if I she talked too much about anything related to the collective bargaining agreement, but she felt it was "enough of a topic within the league and several other governors that it is going to be addressed by the commissioner."
Even the hefty fine the Liberty received from the 2021 season sent a message.
"I think the fine that we took and the actions that we made pretty much spoke for themselves," Wu Tsai said. "I'm a person that is about actions and not words."
Stewart said that traveling in a more convenient way would help players -- current and future -- focus on performing their best without having to worry about "tedious things" and that this could lead to giving season ticket holders and new fans a better experience.
Her goal, she said, is to chase greatness and make the league better even after she leaves.
"Hopefully it's not just a 'no' and can turn into a 'maybe,'" Stewart said. "And then hopefully, eventually it can turn into a 'yes' in regard to chartered flights. Just know that we are never going to stop working and trying to be better."