In one of the largest free-agent moves in WNBA history, former league MVP Breanna Stewart decided to play for them New York freedomleave something Seattle Storm After winning two championships in seven years, she was was announced on Twitter on Wednesday.
Wednesday marked the first day for WNBA free agents to officially sign deals and offer leaves for the 2023 season, though sources told ESPN that Stewart is still working out the details of the deal she will sign with New York.
“It’s definitely been a rollercoaster of emotions, and I made the decision to go to New York because I want to keep being great,” Stewart Malika Andrews told ESPN’s SportsCenter. “I want to go to the place where I can continue to help this league get better, to keep raising the standard.
“I feel like why not go to the biggest market of any sport and I’m really looking forward to going after their first championship.”
— Breanna Stewart (@breannastewart) February 1, 2023
Stewart, 28, made charter air travel a key factor in her free agency, league sources told ESPN. It’s been a topic in discussions with the four teams she’s met with – Liberty, Storm, Minnesota Lynx and Washington mystic — to see where they stand on an issue they believe is critical to player health, safety and performance.
While neither team has been able to make a direct commitment on the issue due to salary cap rules, Stewart believes she has made the issue important enough that meaningful conversations will continue in the immediate future.
“Stewie’s free agency is the history of the WNBA at a turning point: the players understand its worth, the potential of the WNBA, and are eager partners in building a company with incredible momentum,” Stewart’s agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas of Wasserman told ESPN in a statement Wednesday . “She is embracing the process and responsibility that comes with power in a way that will hopefully impact how savvy free agents of all genders approach similar opportunities.”
Stewart was ranked No. 1 by The Storm in 2016 and won two WNBA titles with Seattle, as well as winning the 2018 league MVP trophy. She has averaged 20.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per game in her career after missing the 2019 season with an Achilles tendon injury.
The addition of Stewart, a Syracuse native, playing collegiate UConnputs the Liberty in the championship fight as she joins the 2020 No. 1 pick Sabrina Ionescu and recently acquired Jonquel Jonesthe MVP of the 2021 WNBA, on what appears to be the second “superteam” created this offseason.
“New York is a basketball city and I can’t wait to be a part of it,” Stewart said.
The Liberty has long been a proponent of charter air travel, and owner Joseph Tsai tweeted in October 2021 that he would work with WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert to resolve the issue. In 2022, the Liberty was fined $500,000 for chartering flights for the team without league approval.
Unlike the NBA’s 30 teams, the WNBA’s 12 teams travel on commercial airlines except on rare occasions. The WNBA and its owners have ruled that no team may charter — even if its owner can pay for it — unless all teams can afford a charter flight. It is estimated that chartering trips for all teams would cost nearly $30 million.
WNBA owners would need to hold a vote in the Board of Governors to make changes to the system. Since this is a collective bargaining issue, the players’ associations would also have to deal with it again. In recent CBA negotiations, players have opted to raise the issue for higher compensation, among other benefits.
Stewart told Andrews that she hopes a step forward on this matter could come soon, potentially allowing charter flights in certain situations, e.g. B. for longer distances or when teams should play consecutive games.
The issue of private air travel has come to the fore this winter due to adoption, sources say Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner will have to fly privately for safety reasons after being released from a Russian prison in December. Griner was arrested at a Moscow airport last February after Russian authorities said she had vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage. She was held for nine months before being released in December as part of a prisoner swap negotiated by President Joe Biden’s administration.
If Griner were to fly privately, the WNBA would need to address whether her Mercury teammates would fly privately with her. That would raise the question of fairness towards the other teams in the league.
Griner, an unrestricted free agent, has indicated she wants to play for the Mercury in 2023 but has yet to request special travel accommodations from the league, sources said.
Stewart, who played with Griner on US national teams and tweeted about her nearly every day during Griner’s incarceration, addressed the issue of charter flights for the entire WNBA in a Jan. 22 tweet. She tweeted that she would be willing to contribute money from her name, image and likeness deals, social media posts and production time to ensure the entire WNBA can travel privately “in a manner that protects the health and safety of the.” player prioritized” and “ultimately leads to a better product”.
“I wish it was as easy as tomorrow, but business takes a little patience and our W ladies have been patient long enough, so we definitely have something to get done,” he said. “And I’m with them no matter how much it costs per se. I think we could all come together and make something very doable happen.”
The loss of Stewart in the same offseason that franchise icon Sue Bird retired is a major blow to the Storm, who only has two players – Jewel Loyd and Mercedes Russel — under contract for the 2023 season.
ESPN previously reported that Vandersloot is considering Storm, Liberty and Lynx along with Sky and that her free hand could play a role in Stewart’s decision. Vandersloot, who plays in Turkey’s Fenerbahce team with Stewart, is expected to announce her decision this week, sources said.