'Groundbreaking' agreement will improve pay and quality of life for WNBA players

Top players could earn more than $500,000 beginning this coming season.
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Napheesa Collier

Napheesa Collier won the 2019 Rookie of the Year Award for the Lynx. 

In what the WNBA is calling a "groundbreaking" announcement, the professional women's basketball league and its players' union have agreed to terms of a new eight-year Collective Bargaining Agreement. 

The new agreement, pending formal approval, will provide increased pay for players, better travel accommodations, paid maternity leave and numerous additional benefits that will improve quality of life and work. 

The average cash compensation for players will be $130,000, with top players able to earn more than $500,000 annually, more than triple the maximum earnings possible last season. 

“What we have here is a multidimensional pay structure as well as benefit structure,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert told the New York Times. “We’ve really gone all out here. We’re making a big bet on this league, a big bet on women, and that in professional sports, that the WNBA can lead the way.”

Finer points of the CBA: 

  • Maximum player salary increases from $117,500 to $215,000. 
  • Marketing deals up to $250,000 and bonus incentives could push earnings to over $500,000. 
  • Maternity leave paid with full salary. 
  • Dedicated space in arenas for nursing mothers. 
  • $5,000 child care stipend. 
  • Reimbursement up to $60,000 for adoption, surrogacy, egg freezing and fertility treatment. 
  • All players receive premium economy class seats on flights for regular-season travel. 
  • Each players gets an individual hotel room on road trips. 
  • Offseason job opportunities to help players prepare for life after basketball. 
  • Enhanced mental health benefits and resources. 

Perhaps most importantly, the agreement would allow for a 50-50 revenue share between the league and players starting in 2021 if the league reaches revenue growth targets from broadcast agreements, marketing partnerships and licensing deals. 

According to the New York Times, NBA players receive about a 50-50 revenue split with the NBA, while the WNBA only shares approximately 20-30 percent of revenue with players.

The improved travel accommodations come following years of debacles that have left teams sleeping in terminals and enduring travel nightmares. Last season, the Indiana Fever played in Seattle on a Sunday and had to travel through a connecting flight to Atlanta to get back to Indiana to face the Minnesota Lynx that Tuesday. 

But a flight crew was late for one flight, causing a big delay that led to them missing their connecting flight out of Atlanta. They were forced to take a bus – an 8-hour ride – to Indianapolis. The bus ride featured two delays, one for a mechanical issue and another for a bus driver switch after the original driver reached an hours limit.

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