The WNBA ruled on Tuesday that the Las Vegas Aces had forfeited their game last Friday against the Washington Mystics, a game they chose not to play after canceled flights and other airport delays turned the cross-country trek into nearly 26 hours of travel headaches.

Las Vegas Aces WNBA forfeit
Carolyn Swords (8), A’ja Wilson (22), and Kelsey Plum (10) of the Las Vegas Aces chose not to play against the Washington Mystics last Friday, leading the WNBA to declare the game a forfeit. (Image: Quinn Harris/Icon Sportswire)

The Aces were traveling from Las Vegas to Washington, DC, but due to weather-influenced travel woes did not arrive until just a few hours before game time.

First Forfeit in WNBA History

By the time the team reached their hotel in Washington, it was only about four hours before the scheduled start tip-off. After speaking to union representatives by phone, the Aces contacted the league to say they did not want to play, citing the possibility of subjecting their players to injury as the reason.

The WNBA tried to get the teams to agree to play the game, ultimately pushing the start time back an hour in an attempt to accommodate the visitors. Since the Aces still decided not to play, and because it is late in the season with a busy schedule remaining for both teams, the league ruled that Las Vegas will have to take a loss, the first time a WNBA game has been forfeited.

“We worked extensively with both the Aces and Mystics to come up with a workable solution,” WNBA President Lisa Borders said in a statement on Tuesday. “While not ideal, [pushing the game to 8 pm] was the best available solution to accommodate both our fans and the scheduling challenges. Since the Aces chose not to play, the result is a forfeit.”

Fighting for Playoff Contention

The decision could end up playing a major role in the WNBA playoff race. The loss was one of two that the Aces suffered on Tuesday, as they also lost on the court to the Atlanta Dream 109-100. That dropped Las Vegas to a 12-17 record, 2.5 games behind the Dallas Wings for the final playoff spot.

That will make it difficult for the Aces to get back in the playoff race, as they only have five games left to play in the season, while Dallas has six. The two do have one head-to-head meeting remaining on Aug. 17.

Meanwhile, the Mystics scored a 103-98 win over the Phoenix Mercury on Tuesday to improve their record to 18-11, putting them in third place overall and just one game behind the Atlanta Dream in the Eastern Conference.

The top team in each conference receives a bye into the semifinal playoff round. The Seattle Storm have the league’s best record at 23-7, and are a 9/4 favorite to win the WNBA championship according to William Hill.

Following the news of the WNBA’s decision, Aces head coach and president of basketball operations Bill Laimbeer responded with a short statement on the matter.

“Our entire organization has the utmost respect for the very difficult decision our players made, and we stand with them,” Laimbeer said. “We are disappointed with the league’s decision, but our focus is now on winning as many games as we can in our drive for our first playoff appearance.”

The WNBA Players Association has said that it hopes to work with the league to address schedule and travel policies going forward. That could include re-examining the league policy that prohibits charter flights due to concerns that there could be a competitive imbalance if some teams have better access to charter services than others.