On Tuesday, the WNBA and WNBPA announced the general terms for a new eight-year Collective Bargaining Agreement that starts in the 2020 season through the 2027 season. Teams and players still have to ratify the deal, but it’s happening.
Here are some of the highlights based on the press release and tweets from WNBPA Vice President (and ESPN NBA analyst) Chiney Ogwumike,
WNBA players’ pay, especially star players’ pay will skyrocket
Here’s Ogwumike’s tweet on pay.
PLAYER SALARY & COMPENSATION:— Chiney Ogwumike (@Chiney321) January 14, 2020
✅ 30% increase to the salary cap
✅ Higher Max Player Salary goes from $117,500 to $215,000
✅ ADDITIONAL COMPENSATION for select top players up to $300,000
✅ First time EVER that the average player compensation is six figures!
Teams’ salary caps are currently a little short of $1 million. Now, they will be around $1.3 million. However, some players will earn up to $215,000 which is close to double the 2019 max of $117,500.
But the big game changer is the addition of a “supermax” of up to $300,000 for some star players. This is coming out of a $1.6 million fund for “off-season league and team marketing agreements.” My feeling is that this is a league fund, so these “supermax” salaries will only be limited to very few. It is quite similar to a concept I introduced on Swish Appeal last April.
Though Ogwumike noted that player compensation will average over $100,000, it’s misleading. That average figure is shooting up primarily because star players who are getting maximum-level salaries will see their compensation skyrocket, perhaps up to triple their 2019 levels according to the WNBA/WNBPA release. My feeling is that players on rookie level contracts will see more modest increases, likely less than the 30 percent. So things aren’t changing as much for them.
That said, the WNBA/WNBPA release noted that the 2021 season will institute a revenue sharing agreement where players get 50 percent and the owners also get 50 percent, with league revenue targets at mind. Since the players and the teams want more revenue, this can encourage more players to stay in the United States or not play overseas to keep the league’s awareness alive during the regular season.
Finally, there will be some minor changes in free agency. A player can only receive the core player designation three times in her career for the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Starting in 2022, a player can only be cored twice. Also, un-cored veteran players can be unrestricted free agents after five years of service, down from six previously.
WNBA players will have their own rooms, more room on flights
Besides pay, WNBA players had significant issues with travel. Here are some of the new changes offered in a nutshell.
PLAYER EXPERIENCE:— Chiney Ogwumike (@Chiney321) January 14, 2020
✅ Individual hotel rooms for every player
✅ Mandatory extra legroom seats on flights plus more flexibility than ever before to order charters when necessary
✅ off-season job opportunities with league partners as alternative option to overseas
In the previous CBA, inexperienced WNBA players like rookies would share hotel rooms on road trips when possible while veteran players had their own rooms. Now, everyone has their own room, which I think was way overdue. I’ve been on a number of business trips and always had my own room, even when I was right out of college.
As for airplane tickets, it’s good to see that players will get Economy Plus or Comfort seats, depending on what an airline calls it. The average WNBA player is roughly 6 feet tall, and frontcourt players are definitely well above that. Also a well overdue move. While I never expected charter flights in this CBA, at least we should be seeing them in an emergency. So we won’t see a repeat of the Las Vegas Aces’ commute from hell in 2018 when a Mystics game was cancelled.
The new CBA gives more compensation and consideration for mothers and wellness
Health, wellness and parenthood aren’t headline-y sections like pay and travel have in past years. But there are some notable changes here as well.
WORKING MOMS:— Chiney Ogwumike (@Chiney321) January 14, 2020
✅ Players to receive full salary while on maternity leave
✅ New annual childcare stipend
✅ New progressive family planning benefits up to $60,000 reimbursement for veteran players for costs related to adoption, surrogacy, oocyte cryopreservation, fertility...
HEALTH & WELL-BEING:— Chiney Ogwumike (@Chiney321) January 14, 2020
✅ Mental health resources
✅ Nutrition Council committed to optimize athletic performance
✅ Augmented and holistic domestic violence program that includes education and counseling
The biggest change is for WNBA players who are also mothers. The Mystics have had this situation before with former players Tayler Hill and Bria Hartley while current forward Tianna Hawkins is a parent.
Before the current CBA, teams were only required to play half of a player’s salary while on maternity leave. Now, they get full compensation. Also, parents will have two-bedroom apartments and a stipend of $5,000 which is really good.
As for the family planning benefits, this is also big. Some players such as Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart had their eggs frozen so they could have children, perhaps later on in life so they can prolong their playing careers. The WNBA/WNBPA agreement stated that players will get up to $60,000 for the procedure.
In regard to general health and well-being, I think these, as well as domestic violence programs are important initiatives. It will be interesting to see what the previous resources for these things were with the previous CBA.
Overall, I’m happy with these changes. The WNBA needed a new CBA to increase players’ compensation to make it more in line with Europe and China.
While the WNBA still won’t offer some of these big salaries that you see at Russian superteams like UMMC Ekaterinburg, the WNBA offers an American option that compensates more than in the past. It also takes post-playing considerations as well as the concept of the whole athlete and person into account. As Natasha Cloud indicated in a Q&A earlier today, teams overseas don’t necessarily do that.
In a later post today, I’ll write what the new CBA likely means for the Mystics as they head into free agency. As a whole, this is good for the whole league and the defending WNBA champions.