The WNBA and players union made huge strides on Tuesday when they came to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement that increases pay, improves travel accommodations, and provides better support for motherhood, amongst additional improvements.
It also brought awareness to those, including myself, that didn’t fully realize the extent for the limited support WNBA players receive.
For many, what might’ve seemed standard, are huge wins for the WNBA.
A brief overview:
• Seats now upgraded to economy plus or comfort plus (players will still travel commercial).
• Individual hotel rooms on the road (prior, this was reserved only for veterans).
• Full salary while on maternity leave (in the old CBA, a player could earn as little as half of her base salary if she missed the season due to pregnancy or childbirth).
• Significant salary bump for league’s highest-paid players (from an annual base salary of $117,500 to $215,000).
• Minimum salary for players with two years (or less) experience increased to $57,000 (from $41,965), and for three years (or more) to $68,000 (from $56,375).
• Potential to earn 50-50 revenue split with the league (currently estimated around 20 percent. In the NBA, it is near 50-50).
Sixers guard Josh Richardson voiced his support to NBC Sports Philadelphia on Wednesday.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” Richardson said of the new CBA. “The last CBA was not super player friendly and I’m glad to see they get a bigger percentage and hopefully it can just keep increasing.”
“As a basketball player, I have sisters who play and who have put just as many hours as myself to play the game,” Tobias Harris said. “I think it’s good that now they can have an upgrade in pay to entice them for what they do, and I think it’s great they came to an agreement on that, and it’s well overdue.”
“I think it’s a huge step and I hope it continues because there are some other things that we want them to continue to get and showcase,” Al Horford said. “I was very happy when I saw the news that they would be getting some of those just basic things that they absolutely deserve.”
One of the biggest issues surrounding the WNBA is the fact that so many women have to go play overseas in their “offseason,” to be able to make a decent living.
This means that many professional women’s basketball players are playing year-round, something that Horford said he realized after training with Diana Taurasi early in his NBA career.
“No. 1, I think about the travel, and No. 2, having to play a sport year-round, and the fact that now the salaries have increased, I think that will help, maybe them not wanting to go overseas and playing so much.”
Under the new CBA, the average salaries are expected to increase to $130,000.
“It’s a grind,” Horford said. “I couldn’t imagine playing a full NBA season, and then having to go play overseas in the summer. I think it’s a huge step and we hope that things continue to fall in line because of that.”
Mention that full maternity leave was not part of the old CBA and players' eyes widen.
“That was ridiculous,” Harris said.
“It’s messed up,” Richardson said. “I just don’t think it’s how it should be working …”
“That was crazy,” Shake Milton said. “I don’t understand, they have to put everything on hold and have a child and don’t get paid? That’s wild to me.”
“I didn’t know all of that, but now I do know,” said Raul Neto. “It’s crazy.”
There’s one area where we can all agree.
“Changes that were long overdue,” Milton said.
“That deal should have been in place a long time ago,” Harris said.
“I just think a lot of people need to wake up and see that if you genuinely like basketball, you would have to like the WNBA. I think with this deal, more and more people should have appreciation for what they’re doing.”
And the future looks a little brighter for young girls wanting to be professional basketball players.
“I think it’s a big step for young girls that want to be basketball players, because if you want to be a basketball player and you see all the struggles, it’s something that kind of makes you step out of sports,” Neto said.
“It will be so good for the game of basketball in general, and for younger girls growing up, that can look at it as an outlet,” Milton said. “Before, a lot of people might not have stuck to it or chose that path just because of that. They deserve it, so it’s huge.”
“Those girls can play, they can really play,” Horford said. “Honestly, I’m just very happy that they are going to get more fair opportunities.”
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