Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is weighing in on the WNBA charter issue.
The NBA Hall of Famer took to Twitter on Thursday to say he’s “all for WNBA players getting equal rights” as the hot topic of charter flights resurfaced following reports that six-time WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner needs to fly private due to security concerns.
Charter flights are not allowed in the WNBA currently.
Abdul-Jabbar said he’s “been there – done that & played at the highest levels,” but he knows firsthand the toll that traveling commercially has on an athletes’ body. He traveled via commercial flights during his historic 20-year career, where he amassed the league’s all-time leading scoring record that Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James is closing in on.
“Today’s NBA players never had to deal with the effects of commercial travel on their bodies,” Abdul-Jabbar tweeted.
Although NBA players do not have to fly commercially, that hasn’t stopped them from advocating for equal rights for WNBA players. Kyrie Irving said he’s “with (WNBA players) no matter how much it costs” and Ja Morant added, “count me in.”
Seven-year veteran Breanna Stewart, the highest profile free agent this offseason, said she “would love to be part of a deal that helps subsidize charter travel for the entire WNBA” to prioritize player safety and health. Abdul-Jabbar applauded Stewart for being on the forefront: “Congrats Breanna for raising this issue.”
Hall of Famer Charles Barkley previously discussed the challenges of flying commercial, saying he’s just another person in coach during the early years of his career before flying private being the norm in the NBA.
“It drives me crazy when guys making $30 million are complaining about playing basketball two days in a row,” he said on Geno Auriemma’s podcast in 2017. “We did that and we flew commercial. These guys, they never even go to the airport. I remember I’d be sleeping in the airport at 5 o’clock in the morning, traveling three hours and playing a game that day.”
Barkley added: “It was so crazy because every plane leaves at 6 or 7 in the morning. We’d be in the airport by 4:30, 5 most times. We’d be sleeping, half the guys laying on the floor and then my first year I was in coach the whole year.”
The ongoing topic of charters has resurfaced in recent weeks after security concerns were raised about the safety of Griner, who reportedly needs to fly private following following her release from Russia in a controversial prisoner swap in December.
WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert previously has shot down the idea of charters, telling ESPN, “We’ve asked all the major airlines. We’ve asked charter companies. I’ve been working on this since the moment I came into the league. Without sponsors stepping up, it’s just not in the cards right now.”
Engelbert has estimated that chartering the entire season for all 12 teams would cost more than $20 million.
Contributing: Lindsay Schnell
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on WNBA: ‘All for’ players getting equal rights’