The New York Liberty organization was fined $25,000 for breaking rules regarding postgame media interview access following their season-ending Game 4 defeat to the Las Vegas Aces in the 2023 WNBA Finals on Wednesday night, the league has announced. Furthermore, Sabrina Ionescu, Jonquel Jones and Betnijah Laney have all been individually fined $2,000 each.
Shortly after the Liberty's defeat, head coach Sandy Brondello made her way to the podium along with Breanna Stewart and Courtney Vandersloot. That trio sat and answered questions for about 10 minutes, but no one else on the Liberty was made available.
While the WNBA closed locker room access to the media this season, league policy -- which was agreed upon by the players union -- states "following the conclusion of a team's postgame press conference in the interview room with its head coach and two key players, any additional players requested by in-person media are required to be available for interviews in an alternate location."
The Liberty failed to make their players available, which multiple reporters on the scene commented on through social media.
In decades of covering sports, have never seen this happen. After being eliminated by Aces, Liberty bring 2 players & coach to media room. Refuse to make others available No Ionescu. No Betnijah Laney. No Jonquel Jones. Really? I write a shitty story, and I still answer my email.— Barbara Barker (@meanbarb) October 19, 2023
Credit to Breanna Stewart & Courtney Vandersloot for answering questions in the presser. But it was extremely disappointing to not get an opportunity to speak with others in scrums— Alexa Philippou (@alexaphilippou) October 19, 2023
When people in the W say there needs to be more coverage, and then stuff like this happens…. https://t.co/Vs8qnlfU2L
While the players and staff were surely upset and frustrated after such a tough loss, media duties are part of the job. Losing teams and players often provide some of the best, and most human quotes and stories in sports, and refusing to speak to reporters does a disservice to everyone involved.
The Liberty are not the first team to pull such a move. After the Phoenix Mercury lost in the 2021 Finals to the Chicago Sky, Brondello, who was then coach of the Mercury, spoke to the media, but not a single player did so. The league fined the Mercury $10,000 on that occasion.
That the league raised the organizational fine to $25,000 this time around, while also fining players individually, shows they are taking the matter more seriously. If the WNBA wants to continue to grow, media access has to be part of the equation.