- For the first time in league history, the average WNBA player will earn a six-figure salary while top players are eligible for annual compensation that could push $500,000.
- Other changes include fully-paid maternity leave , improved travel arrangements, increased investment in marketing, and a potential 50-50 revenue split by 2021.
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Just two weeks into the new decade, the WNBA has made strides in pushing towards a fairer, more equitable future.
On Tuesday, the league announced that leadership had agreed to a new, eight-year collective bargaining agreement with the WNBA Players Association. Players had opted out of the previous agreement due to issues with their compensation, benefits, travel arrangements, revenue split, and more.
First looks at the new CBA appear to address many of those areas of concern.
"We approached these negotiations with a player-first agenda, and I am pleased that this agreement guarantees substantial increases in compensation and progressive benefits for the women of the WNBA," WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a release . "We look forward to working together to make the WNBA a sustainable and thriving business for generations of women's basketball players to come."
First and foremost, the WNBA will henceforth offer a maximum salary of $215,000 a nearly $100,000 increase from last season. Top players are also eligible to earn up to $300,000 more in "league marketing agreements," which are designed to keep stars from having to play overseas during the WNBA offseason. Those two figures, combined with additional incentives for achievements like All-Star game participation and mid-season tournament victories, could amount to a more than $500,000 payday for the league's brightest stars.
For years, WNBA players argued for a portion of the league's revenues commensurate with that which NBA players receive. While often misconstrued as a bid for the millions of dollars stars like LeBron James and Stephen Curry take home each season, the women's players simply lobbied for a greater percentage of the pie. Whereas James and Curry have long enjoyed a 50-50 revenue split, the WNBA's figure hovered around 20%.
No longer. Women's players will potentially earn a 50-50 split of their own contingent upon the league hitting its revenue goals.
Benefits were also altered in the new CBA. The league now officially requires all of its teams to offer fully-paid maternity leave to its players. Parents playing in the WNBA are also eligible to receive a childcare stipend and housing assistance. Nursing mothers will be provided with necessary accommodations, while more veteran players will have access to reimbursement for family-planning costs involving adoption, fertility treatment, egg freezing, and more.
Finally, players have historically struggled with their travel accommodations. The league regularly cut corners by shipping teams from game to game via connecting flights that left them with insufficient time to prepare for the next contest. Players more often than not were seated in coach, and some like Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner, who is 6-foot-8 were sometimes seated in the middle of a row on a plane. And only veteran players were given their own rooms in hotels for away games.
Now, all players will receive their own individual accommodations. And while teams will still fly commercial, players will no longer have to endure the limited space in coach. Instead, they'll be placed in comfort or economy plus seats.
Players throughout the league, including WNBPA President Nneka Ogwumike, voiced contentment with the new agreement, while WNBA fans from NBA stars to tennis legend Billie Jean King lauded the move as a "step in the right direction."
"We found common ground in areas that confirmed the league's and the players' intentions to not only make meaningful improvements in working conditions and overall professional experience but also to improve the business with strategic planning and intentional marketing that will keep the WNBA front and center year-round," Ogwumike said.
"There are significant gains all across the board in this new agreement," WNBPA Executive Director Terri Jackson added . "Everything is in place for our players and the league to thrive."
You can read the entire WNBA press release about the new CBA here .
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