How providing snacks became Jewell Loyd’s mission amid ongoing WNBA travel issues

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Jewell Loyd has become the Seattle Storm’s official snack parent of sorts after entering locker rooms at home and on the road hungrily looking for her favorite food and drink options. It’s one of the minor issues that often go unnoticed on a broader scale, but still has an impact on an athlete’s performance and a team’s success.

“You want the best product out there, [then] you have to kind of make sure we have everything we need,” Loyd told Yahoo Sports. “That’s including snacks, water, convenience [items]. Make sure we have a place to elevate our legs when we’re traveling. Whatever. Those things shouldn’t be overlooked.”

Loyd, the most veteran player on a young squad, took it upon herself to provide her Storm teammates the snacks they desired by striking a partnership with Gopuff, an instant commerce platform that quickly delivers everyday products to its customers. Gopuff is providing an assortment of snacks, food and drinks to the team each week via delivery after practice in Seattle or after road games. Loyd said she always has candy and chocolate in the cart for her teammates, plus pretzels and hydration items for herself.

The lack of good snack options is also tied up in one of the league’s largest and most front-facing pain points of commercial travel, Loyd said. The WNBA collective bargaining agreement stipulates teams must fly commercially, and though it has allowed specific use of the public chartering flight service JSX, the company is not available in many WNBA cities. The league schedule also expanded to 40 games this year, up from 36, in the same span of time.

“Honestly, the travel schedule has been crazy, so when they [team officials] do [supply] stuff, things just go bad. We’re not there to eat it,” said Loyd, who is averaging a league-best 24.2 points per game and could break Diana Taurasi’s single-season record of 25.29.

Seattle Storm guard Jewell Loyd has spearheaded a deal to provide her team with more snacks and drinks while traveling. (Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports)

Seattle Storm guard Jewell Loyd has spearheaded a deal to provide her team with more snacks and drinks while traveling. (Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports)

It’s particularly difficult for Seattle, the only WNBA team in the Pacific Northwest region. The closest teams are Las Vegas (1,114 miles) and Los Angeles (1,136), which are in an easy travel region with Phoenix. Dallas is also geographically alone, but has shorter trips to Atlanta (781 miles), Indianapolis (899) and Minnesota (947). Seattle has to travel forward three time zones to play the East Coast teams, whereas Dallas only jumps one time zone. In general, the Storm take more connecting flights with longer travel days.

“When we’re flying back to the East Coast, or flying through time change, sometimes we land and it’s like, 10 o’clock, and convenient stores aren’t open,” Loyd said. “So you’re sitting there, like, ‘well do I just go downstairs and get a Snickers? What can I get where I can get it quick and still have a shower and still have [athletic] treatment for later?'”

Anyone who has traveled knows the difficulties in finding quality and nutritional snacks in an airport. Delayed flights complicate the situation and can mess up eating schedules. It’s also difficult upon a late night arrival to a city. The options dwindle, and in certain WNBA cities the nearby establishments close kitchens by 9 p.m. The Las Vegas Aces quite publicly ran into this problem in August 2021 after flight delays and luggage issues.

Unless players pack their own snacks, which can also be tricky because of TSA liquid rules, it can be frustrating to acquire access to snacks or emergency items. Unlike NBA players flying charter, they can’t walk onto a flight with a freshly made meal from their favorite local eatery. Efficient access becomes even more difficult, which is where Gopuff fills in the gap for Loyd.

Loyd has used the service for a long time herself, and when the snacks issue popped in the locker room, she called her agent to see if there was interest. Gopuff is also offering a “Jewell Loyd Snack Collection” for customers nationwide to choose from and allows donations of food, snacks, drinks and home essentials to Seattle nonprofits.

The way the deal came about is similar to the WNBA Players Association’s partnership with Priority Pass to give their athletes a place to wait at airports before flights. Players and the union are taking it upon themselves to broker agreements that would make travel at least a little easier for the athletes while charters remain, at minimum, a few years off.

“I feel like because our league is so progressive in a lot of ways — we have a lot of amazing, independent, smart women that are in this league — that [people] are like, ‘Oh they’re fine, they’re capable of doing their own thing,’” Loyd said. “And I think when you think about our partnership with Gopuff, or even the Priority Pass, the priority should be the athlete.”

It’s the little things like snacks that shouldn’t be missed, Loyd said. Because players are also thinking about issues ranging from “my shoes, my health, my brain, things on my body, travel” to game plans, personal life issues, safety in airports and business dealings since the average WNBA career is short.

“The simple things shouldn’t just be [that] I have to think about that, too,” Loyd said. “It should be provided for us.”

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert has said charter flights for all teams to use all season are too expensive for the league at the moment, and has targeted the next media rights deal as a game changer for the issue. It is how MLS, the league the WNBA is most often compared, began chartering more flights for its clubs.

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