Washington Mystics guard Natasha Cloud got off to a torrid start this WNBA season, averaging 18 points, five rebounds and six assists while leading her team to a 2-0 record. Cloud’s start came to an abrupt halt Tuesday, however, when she became the league’s first player to enter COVID-19 health and safety protocols in 2022.
The Cloud-less Mystics beat the Las Vegas Aces 89-76 on Tuesday night, and the former St. Joseph’s standout voiced frustration about missing it. In a tweet posted during the Mystics-Aces game, Cloud slammed the WNBA for forcing teams to fly commercial and failing to institute a mask mandate.
“Shoutout to the @WNBA for flying us commercial during a pandemic,” Cloud tweeted.
It’s unclear whether Cloud contracted the virus or landed in health and safety protocols because of the WNBA’s travel policy, but that seems to be her best guess. The Mystics have played one road game this season, a 78-66 win over the Minnesota Lynx at the Target Center on Sunday.
The WNBA currently forces all of its teams to fly commercial throughout the season. Many have criticized the policy, but WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert hasn’t softened her stance, saying it would cost over $20 million a season to charter flights for all 12 squads — a cost the league can’t afford.
“This is something that we’re not going to jeopardize the financial health of the league and be irresponsible about,” Engelbert told ESPN in March. “If we can get it funded by sponsors and supporters, great, but that’s not where we are. We do not have that.”
New York Liberty owner Joe Tsai — who also owns the NBA‘s Brooklyn Nets — tried to circumvent the policy last season by reportedly flying his team on private planes. As a result, the WNBA fined the Liberty a league-record $500,000.
It remains to be seen how much time Cloud will miss, but she’ll surely hope to return to what could potentially be her breakout season. Cloud, 30, is currently well above her career averages in points, rebounds and field-goal percentage (50%).