The early reviews have been decidedly mixed, and many of them have been aired on social media, much to the league’s embarrassment.
The issues appear to center on lodging and food accommodations. There are three locales for players to stay in, and players were able to request staying alone in a hotel room or with roommates in a villa. Some players are housed in the Lodge at IMG, where ESPN’s Kayla Johnson posted pictures of an unappetizing-looking meal, bug traps in between mattresses, rodent traps in a shoddy-looking laundry room and what appeared to be a worm on the floor in one of the rooms.
For Washington Mystics guard Leilani Mitchell, who opted to stay by herself in one of the hotels the league has a contract with, meals have been an issue. Mitchell, quarantining in the hotel since she arrived Monday, has had her meals delivered. She is a vegetarian, and none of the meals sent to her included fruit. So she had some groceries delivered Wednesday — including fruit.
“I would say I’ve had better, for sure,” Mitchell said.
It might seem like a small thing, but these are finely tuned athletes with particular dietary needs. Though Mitchell hasn’t been as upset with her situation, she has heard the stories from the Lodge.
“It’s a small amount, but it’s not really acceptable in my opinion,” Mitchell said.
Las Vegas Aces forward A’ja Wilson confirmed the conditions on Twitter after NBA star Damian Lillard wondered whether the photos were authentic.
The WNBA released a statement saying it is looking into the complaints.
“We have been working closely with IMG and the Players Association to address issues players have expressed about one of the housing locations on campus,” the statement read. “IMG is accommodating all player requests regarding these issues, including moving players to other accommodations. Additionally, in an expedited manner IMG brought in a third party exterminator to inspect the areas where a few issues were raised and they found no bed bugs.”
None of the Mystics who spoke with The Washington Post on Wednesday had major issues with their accommodations — beyond the lack of fruit. Those in the villas have full kitchens and the option to cook for themselves. Those getting meals provided from the league have had them dropped off at their doors in an attempt to maintain the quarantine before workouts begin Thursday. Players are also allowed to use delivery services such as Uber Eats.
Dallas Wings forward Megan Gustafson defended the accommodations at the Lodge on social media, writing that the apartment she is in is “HUGE and super nice,” with its own in-unit laundry. The Chicago Sky’s Alexandria Quigley recorded a tour of a luxurious-looking villa while praising the facilities and adding, “We’re loving our place.” The league sent out a survey to players, and those who requested a change of location were able to move.
Mystics Coach and General Manager Mike Thibault said he doesn’t think the food will continue to be an issue after regular training table meals begin Friday.
“That’ll be fine once we get through this quarantine part,” Thibault said. “I’m from a different generation. If something’s not right the first time, I go and try to fix it without writing it publicly. … Clearly there were a couple issues when people came, but I think that things have been solved from what I know. I’m sure there will be something else. I don’t think we could have walked in here and expected everything to be 100 percent.
“It’s hard when you’re trying to feed 300 people between staff and league people and security and all that while you’re in a quarantine. It’s not like you’re going to have a menu to choose every single meal from right now.”
Mystics forward Emma Meesseman added, “You can’t expect everything to be right for everybody.”
The primary focus of life in the bubble has been safety. Everyone was immediately tested upon arrival, even before checking in, and has been tested daily since then. Everyone received personal thermometers connected to an app and is required to test herself daily for fevers and log the results. Masks, gloves, disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer and other products are all provided.
Thibault said everyone was tested at least three times before boarding the flight to Florida.
“They’re doing the best they can,” Mystics guard Ariel Atkins said. “The crazy part about all of this is, you know, it’s not only the WNBA that isn’t 100 percent knowing what this virus does and different things. It’s a global problem. Everybody doesn’t know the complications or the aftermath of this virus. We have to take that into account when we think about, ‘Oh, what are they doing to keep you all safe?’ I honestly believe they’re doing everything that they can to keep us safe.”
The first several days have been uneventful as everyone quarantines. There have been plenty of teleconferences and TikTok videos produced by players with time on their hands. There is not much else to do before individual workouts start Thursday and team workouts Friday. Though an official schedule has yet to be released as TV details continue to be ironed out, games are expected to begin the weekend of July 25.