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WNBA reaches historic agreement with players


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For years the players of the WNBA have asked to be compensated fairly and treated with respect. On early Tuesday morning, the players and the league took one giant step toward making that happen.

The WNBA and the WNBA Players Association reached agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement, which would start with the upcoming 2020 season and end in 2027, is currently pending ratification from the players’ and the league’s Board of Governors.

The new CBA features many additions that the players have spoken passionately about for years:

Increasing pay and salary: a total 53 percent increase in total cash compensation consisting of base salary, bonuses, prize pools for newly created in-season competitions and league and team marketing deals. The new deal allows for top players (Liz Cambage, Elena Delle Donne, Brittney Griner, etc.) to earn in excess of $500,000 – triple the increase from the last CBA. And for the first time in league history, the average salary across the board will exceed six figures, with a base salary of nearly $130,000;

Improvements to overall player experience: the new CBA will allow players to be paid for maternity leave (under the previous agreement players were considered on an “indefinite leave without pay”), as well as receive expanded off-season career development opportunities. The new agreement will also allow for a more liberal free agency system and to add, a more equitable revenue-sharing model based on the league’s revenue growth.

For league commissioner Cathy Engelbert, this was her first major test as to whether she would be able to move the game forward. And based on the looks of it, this is a major step.

“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,” Englebert said in a written statement. “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.”

WNBAPA president and Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike also thanked Englebert for taking the time to truly make a good-faith effort toward making sure the players received better compensation both financially and physically.

“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.”

“With cautious optimism and trusting the league’s renewed commitment and investment, the players demonstrated a willingness to ‘lean in’ themselves and show an even greater commitment and investment in the W,” described WNBPA Executive Director Terri Jackson. “There are significant gains all across the board in this new agreement, and everything is in place for our players and the league to thrive.”

This agreement was a long time in the making, and will hopefully provide the players with more incentive to not have to go overseas just to make a reasonable salary. With the added benefits, this also shows that the league is truly trying to show its players that they come first.

For the full breakdown on the new CBA, you can view the document here.

Chris Bullock
Chris Bullock
Before joining The Ball Out, Chris Bullock was part of SB Nation's Swish Appeal for nearly three years, covering everything women's basketball. Chris has had the honor of doing live coverage of the WNBA Finals, the NCAA Tournament, and also was given his own column, "The Triple Double". A self-described "foodaholic", Chris lives in the San Diego area with his wife and two daughters, and also hosts his own podcast, "Conscious Cravings", where he speaks about his experience as a mental health advocate.

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