WNBA moms say life will be 'a lot easier' with charter flights

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Monday, May 13, 2024

NEW YORK -- Indiana Fever forwardKatie Lou Samuelson says life as first-time mom got a little easier with the WNBA's announcement that players will fly on charter flights for road games.

The announcement addressed security concerns among other issues but was an early Mother's Day gift for the Fever wing and about a dozen other players across the league with children.

"It's going to be a lot easier traveling with a 9-month-old on a charter than it would be commercially," Samuelson, who gave birth to her daughter, Aliya Renae Cannady, on Aug. 4., told The Associated Press. "She'll be on a lot of the road trips."

Many players would not take their kids on the road due to the requirements for young children when flying on commercial flights.

Breanna Stewart, who has two children with wife Marta, also appreciates the new travel perk -- as well as other benefits for parents under the current collective bargaining agreement, which include:

Players receive their full salary while on maternity leave after only getting half under the previous agreement.

They get a $5,000 child care stipend, and a two-bedroom apartment is provided.

Mothers are given comfortable, protected and secluded space for nursing at arenas and access to a refrigerator to store their breast milk.

Connecticut Sun forwardDeWanna Bonner said every little bit helps.

"I hope it keeps getting better and better because people don't really understand what it takes to be a mom and play basketball or be a mom and be in any kind of sports thing," said Bonner, who has 6-year-old twins. "It's very mentally draining. So just for them to provide any and everything they can to support you, it's exciting."

Sun coach Stephanie White said things are much better for players than when she played.

White remembers the challenges former teammate Niele Ivey faced after giving birth to her son Jaden, who is now 22 and just finished his second season with the NBA's Detroit Pistons.

"There wasn't a lot available. She would bring him to practice and he'd sit in his car seat or, you know, somebody would come with her and he'd sit with her," White said. "On the road it was, you know, sharing a room at the time because I don't even know if veterans got their own room. So you'd have to pay for a separate room or pay for people to come with you."

Some teams have also stepped up at their arenas. The Phoenix Mercury have had a family room for kids to play in since 2018 before, during and after games. The franchise debuted a new one during Suns games this season, and the Mercury families will be able to take advantage of it.

Stewart said she hopes even more can be done for parents in the next CBA. The players or league could opt out of the current CBA after this season.

"We're in a much better place than we ever were with these benefits," Stewart said before pointing out the stipend isn't per child. "It should be a per-child situation. Kids are expensive. If the league can help, let's really do it."

Stewart also said the number of years to qualify for the family planning benefits in the CBA needs to be reduced.

Players who have played eight or more seasons can be reimbursed up to $20,000 for costs per year directly related to adoption, surrogacy, egg freezing or fertility/infertility treatment. That amount is capped at $60,000 total per player.

"That's a long time. ... It's hard to get to that point," Stewart said of the eight-year mark as players remain in the league on average for about five years. "It's a benefit I'm sure a lot of players would love to take advantage of."

The two-time league MVP said there could be some parental bonding during the Paris Games.

Currently there is no WNBA moms text group, but Stewart has a feeling there could be one started at the Olympics this summer.

Diana Taurasi, Stewart, Napheesa Collier and Chelsea Gray all have children. Brittney Griner will soon join the moms club as her wife Cherelle is expecting the couple's first child in July.

Gray would be all-in. Her wife, Tipesa, had the couple's first child earlier this year.

"Mother's Day used to be what do I get my mom? Make sure I call my grandmother. It's still the same, but now I'm receiving calls," Gray said. "It really hasn't dawned on me that I have a day now."