The New York Liberty were fined $500,000 for charter flights to away games during the second half of the WNBA season, as well as other league violations, reported Alexa Philippou for ESPN . Unsanctioned trips to Napa, California, funded by team owners Joe and Clara Tsai didn’t sit well with the WNBA either. Joe is the co-founder of the Chinese tech company Alibaba Group, and his wife, Clara purchased the Liberty and the NBA Brooklyn Nets in 2019.
The Tsai’s publicly speaks about the team’s travel accommodations for WNBA players. He tweeted in October joking about the standards the WNBA holds their players to. He’s been a pioneer trying to eliminate the wage gap between the NBA and the WNBA. However, at every stop he seems to be receiving pushback and hardship.
New York Liberty/Brooklyn Nets Owner Joe Tsai has been a longtime advocate for improving travel conditions in the WNBA.
Tsai paid for the Liberty to fly to road games in the second half of the season and even funded a mid-season flight to Napa Valley. pic.twitter.com/NQ1UpJQFOm
— Front Office Sports (@FOS) March 1, 2022
New York Liberty express their feelings on the matter
The WNBA prohibits chartering for any team. In fact, the WNBA fears the competitive nature of the league. It highlights the competitive advantage for teams whose owners can afford costly extravagant arrangements. The commissioner of the WNBA, Cathay Englebert, has openly spoken about supporting the idea of team chartering. However, she believes that the league needs to see financial growth in order to cover these expenses for each team.
The Tsai’s both have attempted to find solutions for all franchises. Yet, it seems that there has been little progress. For example, last season once the WNBA discovered Tsai’s secretly chartering the New York Liberty throughout the year there was major push back. Many of the Liberty players were at odds as they did not attempt to hide the trip. Several of the players chronicled the trip on their social media.
“At no point was there a New York Liberty proposal for the WNBA Board of Governors to consider offering three years’ worth of charter flights for WNBA teams,” a spokesman for the WNBA said in a statement to ESPN. “It was agreed that the Liberty would explore opportunities regarding charter flights. They are expecting to present this to the Board. To date, that has not happened.”
“What a joke,” Sabrina Ionescu , the Liberty’s franchise player, wrote on Twitter in response to the league’s handling of the situation.
What a joke😂😂😂 https://t.co/SdedaL1vyN
— Sabrina Ionescu (@sabrina_i20) March 1, 2022