Where’s the WNBA travel money?

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert
Photo by Charles Hallman

Sports Odds & Ends

Travel woes remain a concern for the WNBA that needs addressing sooner than later. The Minnesota Lynx was the latest club to encounter travel problems, in their case trying to get from Minneapolis to a game out east.

The longstanding issue was brought up at the All-Star Game in Chicago earlier this month. WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert told the media, including the MSR, that if needed charter flights may be arranged for playoff teams. Otherwise, all 12 clubs must fly commercial, perhaps the only major league that doesn’t use charters on a regular basis to get back and forth to games.

The WNBA in February boldly announced it had raised $75 million from investors. Engelbert said in a release that the money is “unprecedented…to invest in the players and teams.”

What about that $75 million? Where has it gone? Surely some of it, given the fact of rising inflation and fuel costs, could go to improving travel conditions for the players and teams. Why can’t the NBA teams that have private planes not being used during the summer make them available to their poorer sisters?

During Englebert’s visit to Minnesota earlier this month, the MSR asked her about the so-called new money and where it’s going. “Remember, Charles,” Engelbert said, slyly referring me back to the wintertime press release, “we talked about this. Player first, stakeholder success—and that includes media and owners and teams—and then fan engagement. All those touchpoints are an important part of the deployment of the capital.”

I did look back at the official mumbo-jumbo. The following are her words: “Our strategy is to deploy this capital to continue to drive the league’s brand as a bold, progressive entertainment and media property that embodies diversity, promotes equity, advocates for social justice, and stands for the power of women… We are setting the WNBA up for a successful future, and it represents a sign and signal of the future direction of women’s sports as a whole.”

Did you get all that? Translation: No travel money.

Former ABA players awarded benefits

A new program by the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) announced earlier this month that they will jointly fund pension payments for approximately 115 former American Basketball Association (ABA) players who played at least three seasons but did not qualify for pensions from the NBA when it merged with the ABA in 1976.

An IndyStar story published last year found that 80% of former ABA players who are financially struggling are Black. The ABAers have been arguing since the 1976 merger that only took in four ABA clubs that too many of them were essentially iced out of future pension benefits.

“We all believe it’s appropriate to provide financial recognition to this group for their impact,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in an ESPN article. He added that both the league and the players “felt a need to act in behalf of those former ABA players who are aging and, in many cases, facing difficult economic circumstances.”

Under the new program, the qualified former ABAers will receive an annual “recognition payment” of $3,828 per year of service. Please note that these are not being called pension payments.

“We have always considered the ABA players a part of our brotherhood, and we are proud to finally recognize them with this benefit,” said NBPA Executive Director Tamika Tremaglio in a released statement.