Wide range of reactions to WNBA conditions in Bradenton

Players frustrated by bedbugs, mousetraps; incomplete testing reported

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No one expected an easy transition to bringing together the WNBA players, coaches and staff into a single place — in this case, IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

One league source confirmed a team-wide level of satisfaction, while another league source expressed the expectation that there would be issues.

But a varied range of experiences and outcomes have led to significant unrest among many players in the early moments of this experiment, with viral videos and concerns over testing failures breeding initial discontent.

The Next has learned from multiple sources familiar that not every player was tested on the first day of the WNBA gathering in Bradenton, contra expectations. And players have experienced bugs in their beds, what many are calling substandard food and other conditions that left them concerned about the overall experience.

“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 WNBA said through a spokesperson. “IMG is accommodating all player requests regarding these issues, including moving players to other accommodations.” 

The Players’ Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment on both the testing and bedbug issues. Sources within both the players and teams confirmed that there is mutual efforts to resolve ongoing issues, and a source familiar with the situation told The Next that a third-party exterminator was brought in to inspect the affected areas and bugs and determined they were not, in fact, bedbugs.

Multiple players described the food provided as inedible, while the safety protocols provided no opportunity to order something else offsite. And one player captured the bedbugs, photos shared with The Next.

Other players expressed satisfaction about the initial conditions, and one team official expressed the belief that things like the video, that went viral, of a mousetrap in one of the laundry rooms in the living area, were overblown.

Ultimately, without a negotiated paid exit in place, players will be forced to make decisions about remaining that are filled with pitfalls. Leaving means no pay going forward, ahead of an overseas schedule that is both tentative in the first place, amid a global pandemic, and might not include them if travel restrictions against Americans remain in place as the virus continues to ravage this country, unimpeded. Salary offers overseas had already plunged significantly, according to multiple people familiar with the offers.

The league, too, has an opportunity to fix the initial speedbumps, ones similar to the initial experiences in other bubbles, ahead of the still-incomplete schedule. That the WNBA didn’t announce an official start date also provides an added measure of flexibility.

What happens next? As one league source put it: the league needs to step up. And another added, the players need “to know the difference between what is unacceptable (ie bed bugs) and what is simply not Ritz-Carlton’ quality.”