Yesterday was Washington Wizards assistant coach and Washington Mystics point guard Kristi Toliver’s 33rd birthday. Here’s the team wishing her a happy birthday!
Toliver also got a pay raise for her work during the NBA season. So let me explain.
The new WNBA CBA has rules in Article XV which addresses salary cap circumvention. This ensures that teams like the Seattle Storm, who have a small, modest ownership group can compete against the Mystics, who have one of the richest ownership groups in the WNBA.
In the previous CBA, Article XV made no mention of players in situations like Toliver, who became a Wizards assistant coach in the 2018-19 season. However, she had to take a low salary of just $10,000. After all, if the Wizards, who are owned by the same company as the Mystics, can offer Toliver $100,000 or more to coach, then they could have an unfair advantage over teams like the Storm.
(And to be fair to the Storm, they have a hell of a team on the basketball court, but they just don’t have the resources the Mystics do.)
But now, Article, XV, Section 3 mentions the WNBA’s Diversity in Coaching Initiative which specifically addresses Toliver’s situation. If a player has stayed with her current team for at least three years and played at least eight seasons, she can now get paid market rate by an NBA team (legally called a “Team Affiliate”) that shares at least five percent of the ownership stake of the WNBA team she plays for. That money is also coming from the “Team Affiliate’s” budget, not the WNBA’s. So the bottom line is that Toliver will get paid by the Wizards from their account and Mystics by theirs.
The WNBA still has to review what “fair market” means, so they will probably get to see how much all of the Wizards’ and Capital City Go-Go’s coaches make.
In an interview with Ava Wallace of The Washington Post, Toliver mentioned that she had to go to the league union offices to plead her case, along with Ted Leonsis and Monumental Basketball Chief Planning and Operations Officer Sashi Brown. Though both the league and the union wanted to correct Toliver’s situation, the exact specifics were not as easy to do. Wallace also mentioned that the Wizards are now already paying Toliver a competitive salary as well.
All-in-all, great news. It is a good thing to see that the league now has more flexibility for players in Toliver’s situation going forward.