The majority of the WNBA arrived at IMG Academy in Florida on Monday. What they found when they arrived to their new home, affectionally called the “wubble,” for the next few months was far from luxurious.
An initial video of a laundry room made its way through Twitter and garnered attention from NBA players who are heading 100 miles away to Disney World to restart their season in actual bubble luxury. And even ESPN talking head Stephen A. Smith noted the concerns on Tuesday’s “First Take,” calling for the NBA front office to pay attention.
Laundry room video shows poor amenities
It started with a video of one laundry room featuring filthy floors, a mouse trap atop a two-by-four screwed into the wall and supplies littered about.
Las Vegas Aces star A’ja Wilson replied to the video, saying it was hers.
A video in the same thread showed what appeared to be a worm on the floor next to a bed. And finally, a photo of the meal option served to some players that appeared to want to be a stir fry, but didn’t quite make it there. MLS also had initial issues over boxed lunches when teams got to Orlando.
Alexa Philippou, a Connecticut Sun reporter with the Hartford Courant, documented some of the concerns in a tweet thread that also included players’ emoji-only reactions. Washington Mystics’ Tianna Hawkins has a tub that won’t drain.
Seattle Storm star and former MVP Breanna Stewart shared on her Instagram story a picture showing what she said are bug traps between the mattress and box spring. Some players are also experiencing bed bugs and “inedible” food, per Howard Megdal at The Next.
NBA players chime in on WNBA accommodations
As we’ve written before, there is a significant disparity between the WNBA’s bubble accommodations and that of NBA players. The stars of the WNBA still have a long way to go to get from multi-room townhouses and delivered box meals to a villa designed for Disney royalty alongside five-star chef dining and special movie premiers.
There is still work to be done to close that gap, but right now players risking their health to play basketball deserve more than bugs and mush. And an unlikely of sources is bringing it up.
Stephen A. Smith brings up WNBA disparity
“First Take” doesn’t discuss the W all that much, but Tuesday morning Stephen A. Smith brought up the disparity on his own and called on the NBA to address it.
The NBA created the WNBA in 1996 and still holds 50 percent ownership. The 12 WNBA teams own the other half. And a handful of teams are associated with the NBA teams in their market. The hope would be that the NBA involves itself in its holding, and that owners with teams in both leagues make cases for the W to be treated in the same basic ways as the NBA.
Commonly, women’s sports make headlines only when something goes wrong. And while that’s the case here, hopefully Smith giving the issue credence will lift the standards.
Not everything is bad at ‘wubble’
As ESPN analyst LaChina Robinson noted, the WNBA Players Association likely did a site visit before the sides agreed to a deal with IMG Academy. But it surely didn’t include the worst rooms of the bunch, and if they had seen them there would have been demands ahead of time. This issue appears to fall on IMG Academy for not living up to basic standards.
Players knew they weren’t getting five-star plush living, but they weren’t exactly expecting bed bugs. A lot are sharing videos of nicer, more impressive accommodations — still nothing to the NBA level, but a quality place to stay inside of for months to come. That’s the acceptable standard here.
The sports academy and the league are working to resolve the problems, per Arielle Chambers of Bleacher Report.
As some players have noted on Twitter, “the NBA would never.” The NBA considered IMG Academy for its bubble season, and if it had landed there it’s almost guaranteed this would not have been the case. Professional athletes deserve a decent place to stay when they’re about to spend a 22-game season in one spot as the coronavirus rages around them.