WNBA, Players Association Reaches New Landmark Collective Bargaining Agreement

Please Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The WNBA and the WNBA Players Association have officially agreed to a new monumental, landmark Collective Bargaining Agreement that will change a lot surrounding the league, its players and women’s basketball in general.

The WNBA and WNBAPA announced Tuesday morning the agreement between both parties, pending final approval by the WNBA’s Board of Governors.

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert made an appearance on Good Morning America on Tuesday morning to make the announcement on national television.

Engelbert, the league and the players’ union finalized a new eight-year CBA, a deal that will begin in the 2020 season and will run through the 2027 summer.

The agreement between the two sides is monumental and league-altering in many ways, featuring a significant increase in player compensation and benefits, enhancing travel standards and career development opportunities, new child care and maternity benefits, while enhancing player experience overall, among other things.

“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 the official league press release. “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.”

Let’s break down some of the key aspects of the new eight-year CBA between the WNBA and the WNBAPA.

Salary Increases

The biggest part of the new CBA is the fact that player compensation and salaries will increase starting in 2020.

The agreement will see the league’s players receive a 53 percent increase in total cash compensation, moving the average WNBA salary to nearly $130,000, exceeding six figures for the first time ever.

The league’s top players will be able to earn up to $500,000 annually, more than tripling the max deal in the previous CBA. Other top players in the league will earn between $200,000 and $300,000 per year.

Other notable elements surrounding compensation, according to the WNBA’s press release, include:

  • Minimum of $750,000 in prize money for special competitions beginning with the 2021 season.
  • New 50-50 revenue sharing beginning with the 2021 season, based on the league achieving revenue growth targets from broadcast agreements, marketing partnerships and licensing deals.
  • Increases in cash bonuses for performance awards (such as for WNBA MVP and Rookie of the Year), and newly created cash bonuses (such as for each player named to the WNBA All-Defensive First Team).

New Free Agency Elements 

WNBA Free Agency is another aspect that will be addressed and changed a bit throughout the course of the new CBA between the WNBA and WNBAPA beginning in 2020.

The first thing impacted surrounds unrestricted free agency, with players who hold that designation available one year earlier than in the previous agreement. Players who complete the playing services called for in their contract and contain more than five years or service in the league will become unrestricted free agents during the offseason, granted they don’t receive a Core designation by their team.

The other aspect of free agency surrounds the Core designation mentioned above. A Core designation is essentially the same as franchise tagging a player like other league including the NFL and others currently have.

Under this new CBA in the WNBA, the agreement will reduce the number of times an organization can hand out a Core designation to a player, decreasing it from four to three starting in 2020, with that number dropping to two by the 2020 campaign.

Quality of Travel 

Another aspect to the new eight-year CBA announced Tuesday morning is the enhanced quality of travel for teams throughout the course of the season.

With an increased concern surrounding travel having grown throughout the WNBA in recent years, this is a nice step in the right direction to support players and team personnel while they travel from city to city.

In the past, teams have often traveled like any other civilian when traveling to a new city for a road game, which has also resulted in many issues surrounding delayed flights and headaches along the way, ultimately impacting how the players perform on the court when they actually get to the respective city ahead of a game.

The aspects of the enhanced quality of travel for teams throughout the league includes Premium Economy class status (such as Comfort/Economy Plus) for all players for travel during the regular season, as well as individual hotel room accommodations for the players and a collective effort to address other travel concerns through the Player Advisory Panel.

Motherhood and Family Planning Benefits 

The next positive enhancement that the new CBA will feature from 2020-27 surrounding Motherhood and Family Planning Benefits for WNBA players.

First, while players are on maternity leave at any point during their careers, they will receive their full salary during that span, while also receiving an annual childcare stipend of $5,000.

Other aspects of these new benefits include players receiving a two-bedroom apartment if they have children, as well as the league providing workplace accommodations providing a private place for nursing mothers and new family planning benefits of up to a $60,000 reimbursement for veteran players to support costs surrounding adoption, surrogacy, oocyte cryopreservation or fertility/infertility treatments.

Career Development, Quality of Life Elements

The final portion of the new CBA that was announced by the WNBA on Tuesday surrounds various career development and quality of life elements for the leagues players and others within the league.

As far as career development aspects, the WNBA will work with its affiliated leagues (such as the NBA), teams and sponsors to provide individuals with job opportunities during the offseason, which is being implemented to help prepare players for their post-playing careers. It is also designed to help enhance diversity in coaching opportunities for players interested in coaching careers beyond their time as a player.

When it comes to other quality of life elements, those include enhanced mental health benefits and resources, an augmented and holistic domestic/intimate partner violence program including education and counseling, a joint Nutrition Council focused on addressing nutrition to support player performance, as well as access to experts in women’s health and representation on league policy committees.

For a full breakdown of the new CBA, you can view all the aspects of the agreement here.

Overall, all of these aspects implemented and announced in the new eight-year CBA between the WNBA and the WNBAPA is a big step in the right direction for the league, its teams, its players and women’s basketball in general.

Ultimately, players and personnel throughout the league still do deserve to get compensating more than even what this new agreement contains, but the announcement on Tuesday is a monumental step towards trying to accomplish that goal moving forward.


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