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How Caitlin Clark Got The WNBA Private Planes

How Caitlin Clark Got The WNBA Private Planes

BY LUKAS WOERNER Published on May 17, 2024 0 COMMENTS

In May of 2024, major changes came to the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), most notably, changes to their travel itineraries. 


Starting with the 2024 WNBA season, some franchises have begun to charter private planes for their teams, unlike the traditional commercial flights that were used to move players from city to city. What brings on this change and what does it mean for the future of the sport of basketball? 


Photo: Watts Brooks, AeroXplorer


Over the past few years, women’s professional basketball has had many highs and lows. Although the WNBA's level of competition is the highest worldwide for a professional women’s game, the investment from private companies, media rights packages, and overall fan enthusiasm for women's basketball has been considerably less than that of the men's National Basketball Association (NBA).




However, this narrative has begun to shift in recent years, as the WNBA brand strengthens. With additional support from the NBA, the WNBA has introduced expansion teams, and individual players have received plaudits from the media and increased fan attention. While the rise of the WNBA has been slow, the brand is slowly strengthening.


In the past few years, women’s college basketball has had a steeper rise in popularity than their professional counterparts, selling out arenas throughout the regular and post-seasons. The athletes, strengthened by lucrative Name Image and Licensing (NIL) contracts, have created illustrious brands through their use of social media, and traditional commercial marketing abilities. 


Some impactful names include Angel Reese, Nika Muhl, and the Cavinder Twins. Among these names, many will point to a certain Caitlin Clark from the University of Iowa as the one who changed it all. 




Clark has not only become the all time National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) basketball points leader, but she has also introduced an exciting brand of basketball. With her 35-foot jumpers and a win-at-all-costs mentality, Clark's style of playing basketball has sparked an immense interest in her, leading to record viewership numbers for the NCAA's March Madness tournament. 


Upon graduating from the University of Iowa, Clark entered the WNBA draft, again breaking records for draft viewership. So much so that jersey sales upon her arrival to the Indiana Fever basketball team.


As Clark enters the WNBA, many teams are preparing for larger crowds at games, and are preparing to move their games into larger arenas upon her arrival. However, the WNBA still has a way to go in order to support their players, mainly in travel accommodations. 


Historically, players and coaches have traveled on commercial flights, as they are more affordable than chartering private planes. This practice, which is continuously despised, is the standard procedure, with some teams only chartering private planes for WNBA final games. 




According to many players, as the league grows, they expect this practice to change. Specifically, the WNBA Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), signed in 2020, has an opt out after this year. After this year, a clause can be added mandating the use of private planes.


Yet for some teams, this change is already taking place now. The Indiana Fever team recently deployed a chartered jet for the first regular season to travel from Indianapolis, Indiana (home base) to Hartford, Connecticut. 


This action sparked a level of excitement on the team, as previously, there were no direct commercial flights from the Indianapolis International Airport (IND) and the Bradley International Airport (BDL). This made traveling for Indiana Fever players  hard, as the  players would be forced to layover in a city on their way to Hartford. 




Before the 2024 season, the WNBA forbade the use of private charters, stating that it offered some teams an “unfair advantage”, resulting in a USD 500,000 fine for the WNBA team New York Liberty in 2021. Indiana Fever players are excited about having their own plane, and even if private charters are not implemented fully until next season, expect more to come from the WNBA. 


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