Liberty

Tsai, Liberty Lifting League Standards

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Not Your Average Joe (Tsai)

Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve probably heard the news. As reported by Howard Megdal of Sports Illustrated, New York Liberty Owners Joe and Clara Wu Tsai violated the WNBA’s collective bargaining agreement by purchasing charter flights for the team. According to Megdal’s article, the Liberty were fined $500,000 and severe punishment was considered by the league’s general counsel.

Sanctions considered by the league’s general counsel included termination of the franchise, suspension of owners, and removal of draft picks. Thankfully, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert agreed to the aforementioned fine, saying “I cut a deal with Joe”.

A Scandal or a Symbol?

Joe Tsai is no fool. Despite Megdal’s report that there was a “cone of silence around the franchise about it”, it also pointed out Sabrina Ionescu flaunting the team’s travels on TikTok. Former Liberty guard Jazmine Jones was quoted saying the team’s owners “treat us just like they treat the NBA team”. All of this makes it seem like maybe Tsai had some ulterior motives when committing these violations.

https://twitter.com/sabrina_i20/status/1498724982649593856?s=20&t=5HYkY8fayjOrHhkrxaeAhQ

WNBA players and fans are clearly not happy with the league’s penalization of the Liberty. As W Twitter reacts to the news, the league is continually looking like the bad guy while billionaire Joe Tsai looks like the victim.

It doesn’t help that Howard Megdal heavily exposed the league. Apparently the Liberty were offering to pay for the entire league’s charter flights for three years, but were turned down.

Power to the Players

The most disturbing quote of the entire piece came from unnamed WNBA team owners, and their reasoning for not wanting the Liberty to pay for leaguewide travel. They were quoted as saying they “worried that players would get used to it, so there’d be no going back”. Others wondered whether players might just prefer a salary hike instead.

The funny thing is the Liberty were penalized because this type of travel gave them an advantage, right? So it’s almost as if the entire league had that same advantage, every team would play at a higher level.

It seems like a win-win, no-brainer decision. Especially considering you have team owners like Tsai willing to invest in league growth. As for the owners who wondered whether players would consider a salary hike instead, perhaps they should ask the players what they prefer.

A Step In The Right Direction

The NY Liberty owners aren’t the only ones making noise in the league. Las Vegas Aces owner Mark Davis recently advocated for improved player transportation.

Despite the small fine this symbol of defiance should inject the Liberty with momentum this upcoming season. The team’s roster improved with a stellar showing in free agency. Joe Tsai and Jonathan Kolb’s plan is working, and New York is moving in the right direction.

About Mike Perry

NBA and WNBA writer and podcaster

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