She has yet to play a regular season game, but Caitlin Clark’s popularity is already sparking change in the WNBA. |T

Caitlin Clark, Indiana Fever embrace notion of using charter flights for WNBA travel

She has yet to play a regular season game, but Caitlin Clark is among the athletes sparking change in the WNBA.

 

Fever prepare for only preseason home game

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Fever rookie Caitlin Clark already is one of the WNBA’s most recognizable players.

So when she made her first road trip last week, the league’s top overall draft pick had to adapt. Instead of loading her bag directly onto a plane and boarding, Clark found herself traversing the same lines and waits as everyone else at the Dallas airport — just like most of the league’s players.

It’s a hassle she wouldn’t mind avoiding on future trips and now league commissioner Cathy Engelbert is working on a solution.

One day after Engelbert told a group of sports editors that she’s trying to find regular charter flights for all 12 WNBA teams, Clark and her new teammates embraced the move.

“I think you just have to be aware of where you are,” Clark said after Wednesday’s practice. “You travel with security, which is nice. It’s just different from college where you put your bag on the plane, hop on the plane and then you’re off. But like (here) you’re waiting at baggage claim, you’ve got to go through the normal security with everybody else. For me, it was my first time doing it. It wasn’t terrible. I just went about my business and kept my head down.”

 

Clark went on to score 21 points in her pro debut, a 79-76 loss.

Everyday passengers shared a commercial flight with Clark and the Indiana Fever Thursday. The WNBA heavily relies on commercial flights for in-season away games.

But her star power has only fueled a debate that took center stage last season when Phoenix Suns star Brittney Griner was confronted by a man who started asking questions as she walked through an airport. The incident became so heated that the man was tackled and law enforcement was called.

League officials called the man’s actions “inappropriate” and “unfortunate.”

It spurred a leaguewide debate over player safety with some veteran stars asking that league officials do more, including charter flights. And now, with one of the most heralded rookie classes entering the league, Engelbert wants to take action even if she doesn’t have a defined timetable for when it could happen.

 

Fever coach Christie Sides also remembered sleeping in an airport while working with the Chicago Sky because of several delays before the flight was eventually canceled. She said the team took a 6 a.m. flight and played later that night.

For those reasons, it can’t start soon enough for those who have been around the league for years — or for Clark, who has been driving WNBA ticket sales upward after spending her last two seasons at Iowa driving a substantial increase in television ratings.

“I’m thankful at whatever point that happens, that would be great for us. It will make recovery easier, it will make travel easier,” Clark said. “It just makes life a lot easier for a lot of people, but also it’s just something a lot of people have deserved for years and years.”

Fever on WTHR and WALV

The Fever open the regular season on Tuesday, May 14 at Connecticut.

As the Local TV Home of the Indiana Fever, WTHR/WALV will broadcast 17 Fever games during the upcoming season.

 

The broadcast schedule will include the home opener against the New York Liberty on Thursday, May 16.

Ten of the games will be shown for free over the air on WTHR, and seven of the games will be on WALV, which carries MeTV programming and is on Channel 13.3 and 46.1.

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