Sky’s Elizabeth Williams renews plea for improved travel conditions

‘‘Current rules are bad for the WNBA brand and, more importantly, a real threat to our health and safety,” she said

SHARE Sky’s Elizabeth Williams renews plea for improved travel conditions
The Sky’s Elizabeth Williams, who also serves as the secretary of the WNBA Players Association, again urged the league to update its travel rule.

The Sky’s Elizabeth Williams, who also serves as the secretary of the WNBA Players Association, again urged the league to update its travel rule.

Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images.

The Sky’s pregame media availability ahead of their game Sunday against the Mercury started with a last-minute change.

Instead of Dana Evans and Alanna Smith, the media were notified that Elizabeth Williams and Taylor Soule would be coming in.

The reason for the sudden change was clear: After taking her spot at the podium, Williams had a message she wanted to share.

Williams, the secretary of the WNBA Players Association, opened with a five-minute address regarding the league’s travel rules, which players have consistently complained are hindering the league’s growth.

“The current rules are bad for the WNBA brand and, more importantly, a real threat to our health and safety,” Williams said.

Under the collective-bargaining agreement, which was ratified in 2020 and expires after the 2027 season, teams are not allowed to use charter travel even if they can afford it.

This season, as the WNBA has faced pressure from its players and supporters regarding travel, the league has allowed teams to use JSX, a public chartering service.

JSX, which has preset routes and times unlike a traditional charter service, is not available in every WNBA city, including Chicago.

The league also announced changes to its travel rules to include charter flights for the postseason, back-to-back regular-season games and the Commissioner’s Cup. Players have expressed on several occasions, including Sunday afternoon by Williams, that there is a feeling that the league is precluding more reasonable rules regarding charter travel to maintain leverage at the bargaining table.

Players can opt out of the CBA after the 2025 season. There’s no guarantee they will, but Williams told the Sun-Times that there have been conversations regarding the possibility.

In 2021, the Liberty were fined $500,000 for chartering flights to certain away games. Sports Illustrated reported in 2022 that certain owners feared making charter travel the norm because players would get used to it and wouldn’t want to return to commercial flights if necessary.

On Sunday, Williams relayed a strong message to ownership groups that are not willing or ready to change the league’s travel standards.

“We know there is a small group of owners and teams who remain against allowing their teams to fly charter,” Williams said. “We cannot allow this league to be held back by those owners who are unwilling and or financially unable to grow the business.”

Williams said that her conversations with Sky ownership, specifically principal owner Michael Alter, have not included charter travel. They’ve been focused more on moving the team to the city and how they can make the Sky a premier free-agent destination.

Players, Williams said, are really calling on the league to change the rules that prevent individual teams from chartering if they have the means so as not to create a competitive advantage. They argue that certain teams with individual practice facilities, personal chefs and other amenities already have a competitive advantage.

Soule, a rookie, acknowledged that players such as Williams are the reason she has the confidence to be vocal on issues that matter to her.

“To have a vet like [Williams] who takes a stand on things that are important to her is great,” Soule said.

Griner misses game

Brittney Griner did not travel with the Mercury for their two-game trip to Chicago and Indiana. The Mercury released a statement that Griner is focusing on her mental health and has the team’s full support.

Williams said that she had planned to make a statement before she learned of Griner’s absence.

The Latest
The 38-year-old was taken to University of Chicago Medical Center and pronounced dead.
The city said the proposed route raised safety concerns and responded with an alternate route.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court on Friday and accuses the city of suppressing speech criticizing the government during the high-profile event.
Her giggly, German-accented voice, coupled with her 4-foot-7 frame, made her an unlikely looking — and sounding — outlet for “sexual literacy.”
In this week’s “Polling Place,” we also asked for your thumbs-up or thumbs-down on NASCAR in Chicago with the second race weekend in the books.