After traveling for more than 25 hours, the Las Vegas Aces decided not to play their W.N.B.A. game against the Mystics in Washington on Friday night.
The decision to cancel the game was made about 90 minutes before tipoff. It was not clear whether the game would be counted as a forfeit.
The Aces’ players issued a statement through the players’ union on Friday night.
“To all of our W.N.B.A. fans around the world, we regret that the Aces were not able to take the court tonight against the Washington Mystics,” the statement said. “We trust that you know this decision was not made lightly. There is nothing we enjoy more than playing in front of the most rabid fans in professional sports night in and night out, and we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience and disappointment that was created for the fans, workers and anyone else who may have been affected by tonight’s cancellation.
“Given the travel issues we faced over the past two days — 25-plus hours spent in airports and airplanes, in cramped quarters and having not slept in a bed since Wednesday night — and after consulting with our union, and medical professionals, we concluded that playing tonight’s game would put us at too great a risk for injury.”
Las Vegas had an adventure getting to Washington and did not arrive in the area until 3 p.m. The team was scheduled to take off from Las Vegas on Thursday afternoon, but its flight was delayed for more than eight hours before being canceled. The team scrambled to get on overnight flights that got the players to Dallas on Friday morning. They would connect to Washington from there.
“Naturally, the issue of player safety is of paramount concern for all involved in the W.N.B.A.,” the statement said. “This issue is bigger than our team and this one unfortunate set of circumstances, and we look forward to being a part of future discourse in the hope of preventing such incidents in the future. We thank all of you for your continued support of us and our league, and we will see you back out on the court this Sunday at Connecticut.”3
The Aces had to split into groups and get on different flights in Texas. The last set of players boarded a flight that got into Washington around 3 p.m. The W.N.B.A. moved the tip off back an hour to 8 p.m.
“I’m really disappointed that the Las Vegas players and organization didn’t come to compete,” Mystics Coach Mike Thibault said in a phone interview Friday night. “If you’re there and in the city and can play, you should show up and play.”
Thibault recalled a story that when he was coaching in Connecticut in 2003 the team was in Cleveland when a massive blackout hit the East Coast. The team took a bus back to Connecticut and then made it to New York for a game, showing up 52 minutes before tipoff. They won that game.
Fans already in the arena on Friday night were given an autograph session with the Mystics players. All fans who had a ticket to the game will receive a ticket to a future Mystics game.
“It was Breast Cancer Awareness night, and we were supposed to have 5, 6,000 fans here,” Thibault said.
The Mystics fly to Dallas on Saturday morning for a game against the Wings on Sunday afternoon. Moving the game to Saturday wasn’t really an option. The Aces were beginning a three-game road trip in Washington with their next game Sunday in Connecticut.
Las Vegas never went to the Washington arena after spending over a day traveling that left the players unhappy.
“No shoot around,” All-Star guard Kayla McBride tweeted. “No night of sleep. No beds. No food. Right now we will land in DC at 245pm that has us going straight to the gym bc of traffic and bags … and you want us to play? Oh ok.”
W.N.B.A. teams are not allowed to fly charter because of the cost and the competitive advantage it could give some teams willing to spend the money.
“We can’t control the weather, but league can control whether or not player health will be put at risk tomorrow,” center Carolyn Swords tweeted. “Delays, cancellations & now taking a red-eye to get to DC@1pm. Aces will have been traveling for 24 hrs by the time we land. It takes less time to get to Sydney, AUS.”