The harassment incident at the Dallas airport earlier this month involving Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner was a reminder of the need for a better transportation plan for players.
Whether she’s walking into an arena, down the street or at an airport terminal near you, there’s no way to not notice Brittney Griner, all 6-foot-9 inches of her.
Throw in the fact that she’s a WNBA All-Star who is back in the league after missing months in a Russian jail—she stands out now even more than before.
Just as her return has opened up another storyline of intrigue for the WNBA, it has also popped open an ever-present Pandora's box of idiots who are exercising their right to free speech even if it comes at the cost of making them look like idiots in the process.
Griner experienced this recently when a person in a Dallas airport—I refuse to use his name which would draw even more attention to this clodpoll (that’s another word for idiot that my high English teacher, Miss Gingold, would totally appreciate)—who verbally harassed her as she and her teammates were preparing to fly from Dallas to a game in Indiana.
The clodpoll verbally harassing her wasn’t the biggest problem in all this.
No, the incident was a reminder to Griner, WNBA players and those of us who follow the going-ons of the league, that whatever progress the league purports to have made when it comes to the equitable treatment of its players, there’s a lot of work left to do.
This is especially true when it comes to transportation.
Players have been calling for a more robust chartered flight program, well, forever.
Some owners have tried to take the matter into their own hands, only for the league to push back against such actions, pointing out how it creates a competitive disadvantage for the smaller market franchises.
The league has shown signs of moving the needle in the right direction with the announcement that its chartered flight program would expand this season to include all WNBA playoff games as well as games in which teams are playing back-to-back games.
Prior to that, the league provided chartered flights only for the WNBA Finals and the WNBA Commissioner’s Cup Championship game along with a select number of regular season games.
The league’s response to not making chartered flights a regular season thing, has been that it’s too expensive to the tune of at least $20 million.
But here’s the thing.
For a league that has been so progressive on so many issues as it relates to civic engagement, diversity and a host of other social justice initiatives, the league has been myopic in its approach to this critical part of the playing experience.
This is an issue that requires creativity on the part of all the principal shareholders in the league’s success—ownership, the league and the players. Like most of the league’s success stories, this too should be something that the players drive home and to a certain extent, lay out the foundation for how to make it work.
Among the more vocal players speaking out on the need for chartered travel, has been WNBA All-star Breanna Stewart whose play thus far has her in the thick of the league MVP race.
A combination of contributions from players, the league and corporate sponsors, makes a lot of sense for all involved to pursue.
The NCAA Women’s Basketball tournament put the women’s game on a higher plane in terms of ratings and overall interest. That increased attention should also provide a boost in the near future to the financial coffers of the WNBA and its next media deal.
The journey to the land of palatable equity in the WNBA was something that was never promised, nor was it supposed to be an easy path to attain. But it is absolutely essential to the continued evolution of the women’s game, a game that’s garnering more and more attention.
The Griner incident in Dallas didn’t result in any long-term, sustainable damage for anyone involved.
But does it really have to go there before real change can come about?
Let’s hope the WNBA and its players will continue to be progressive and proactive when it comes to making substantive changes for the better, and find a solution to enhancing the safety and well-being of all its players.