For the First Time in WNBA History...
Last Tuesday, for the first time in the history of the Women's National Basketball Association, a team was forced to forfeit a game which consequently resulted in a loss. The Las Vegas Aces were supposed to take on the Washington Mystic on Friday, August 3rd at 7:00 in Washington DC. However, the Aces chose not to show up to the Verizon Center to play and the game was initially canceled.
The reason Vegas did not show was due to their concerns about the health and safety of their players. It took the Aces 25 hours to get from Las Vegas to Washington DC due to a rash of flight delays and cancellations. The team did not reach their hotel until 3:45 in the afternoon on Friday, August 3rd which was just about four hours before tip-off was scheduled. In an effort to make the game happen, the league pushed back the start time of the game to 8:00 that evening.
The team said, "Given the travel issues we faced over the past two days—25+ hours spent in airports and airplanes, in cramped quarters and having not slept in a bed since Wednesday night—and after consulting with Players Association leadership and medical professionals, we concluded that playing tonight's game would put us at too great a risk for injury."
"Naturally, the issue of player safety is of paramount concern for all involved in the WNBA. 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."
When discussing the league's decision and their efforts to move back the start time, WNBA President Lisa Borders said in a statement, "While not ideal, it was the best available solution to accommodate both our fans and the scheduling challenges, since the Aces chose not to play, the result is a forfeit.”
Prior to the Las Vegas Aces game last Tuesday against the Atlanta Dream they put out a statement as well. Aces' coach and president of basketball operations Bill Laimbeer said, "Our entire organization has the utmost respect for the very difficult decision our players made, and we stand with them. We are disappointed with the league’s decision, but our focus is now on winning as many games as we can in our drive for our first playoff appearance.” Unfortunately that evening they would fall to the Dream by a final of 109-100 which dropped them to 12-17 on the year, two and a half games back of the Dallas Wings for the final playoff spot.
Head coach of the Washington Mystic Mike Thibault was disappointed the Aces "didn't come to compete." According to the Washington Post he said, "Every team I've been around in the WNBA or the NBA or the old CBA goes through this. College teams go through it, and you have an obligation to the fans who paid money to come watch you play. If you're there and in the city and can play, you should show up and play."
While the National Basketball Association (NBA) teams fly on chartered aircrafts, teams in the WNBA are stuck flying commercial. This is due to the fact that not every team can afford to fly charter and that would create an unfair advantage for certain teams. Unfortunately for Las Vegas, just two weeks remained in the season at the time of the forfeit, making it hard to reschedule before the regular season ended on August 19th. Both the Mystic and Wings were set to play nearly every other day for the final two weeks and the prospect of potentially having three games in three days would likely put both teams at a greater injury risk than the Aces were by not showing up after 25 hours of flight issues.
Since the forfeit was ruled, the Las Vegas Aces have continued to fight for a playoff spot. While seven other WNBA Playoff tickets have been punched by teams, the Aces trail by just one game for the final playoff spot which is still owned by the Dallas Wings. Both teams have three games remaining on their schedule, one of which is against each other this Friday. The Wings have lost eight in a row and just fired head coach Fred Williams after an altercation with the team's CEO following a loss on Sunday. Dallas is on the verge of a collapse while Las Vegas has a chance to make their first playoff appearance in franchise history despite the forfeit stacking the odds against them.
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