In what is being called a historic day, the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and Women’s National Basketball Player’s Association (WNBPA) have tentatively agreed to an eight-year Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that among other things will provide WNBA players with greater compensation, according to an announcement made on Tuesday (January 14) by the league.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, harbor negative or indifferent feelings towards women’s sports this is an issue WNBA players have been battling for years.
The new CBA includes a 53% pay raise for players, maternity and fertility benefits, and it overhauls the structure of the season for women’s professional basketball.
Under this new deal, the league’s top players will be able to earn cash compensation in excess of $500,000, which more than triples the maximum compensation under the old deal.
Other top players will have an opportunity to earn between $200,000 and $300,000. Also for the first time in WNBA history, the average cash compensation for players will exceed six figures, averaging nearly $130,000, resulting in an increase for all players from rookies to veterans.
“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,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert. “I want to thank the players, led by WNBPA President Nneka Ogwumike and the WNBPA Executive Committee, as well as WNBPA Executive Director Terri Jackson, for their hard work, innovative thinking and professionalism throughout the process.
I also want to thank the league’s Labor Relations Committee and Board of Governors for their investment, commitment and leadership as we look forward to working together to make the WNBA a sustainable and thriving business for generations of women’s basketball players to come.”
Another change in the new CBA is an upgraded travel package for WNBA players. Under the former agreement, teams were required to fly coach, but under the new agreement, players are promised “premium economy class,” during the regular season. Individual hotel accommodations were also included.
The final major change to the CBA is full paid maternity leave. For veteran players, the league also agreed to cover up to $60,000 toward the costs of adoption, surrogacy, oocyte cryopreservation or fertility treatments. Women no longer need to fear a loss of income, if and when they choose to start a family.
“Cathy Engelbert, the first WNBA Commissioner, brought her perspective as a former women’s basketball student-athlete, her experience as a business professional and her passion for the game to these negotiations,” said WNBPA President Nneka Ogwumike. “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.”