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WNBA Overhauls Player Compensation, Benefits

Brock Fritz Headshot

It may no longer be necessary for WNBA players to play in other countries during the offseason.

The women’s basketball league and its players association announced on Tuesday that they reached an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement, which will run through the 2027 season once its ratified by the players and the Board of Governors.

The WNBA’s press release says that the new CBA “provides the foundation to chart a new course for women’s professional basketball” by focusing on increasing player salary, improving the player experience and implementing a league-wide marketing plan.

“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,” said WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert. “We look forward to working together to make the WNBA a sustainable and thriving business for generations of women’s basketball players to come.”

The new CBA includes a 53 percent increase in total cash compensation, which includes base salary, performance bonuses, prize pools for in-season competitions, and league/team marketing deals. The average cash compensation for players will be nearly $130,000, the first time that the average number will be above six figures in the 23-year history of the WNBA. The highest-paid players in the league will be able to more than triple their previous earnings, making more than $500,000 per year.

The players association, which is led by president Nneka Ogwumike and executive director Terri Jackson, also left the negotiations with better travel and child care benefits, expanded career development opportunities, a more liberal free agency system, and a more robust and equitable revenue-sharing model.

“Cathy Engelbert, the first WNBA Commissioner, brought her perspective as a former women’s basketball student-athlete, her experience as a business professional and her passion for the game to these negotiations,” Ogwumike said.  “We found common ground in areas that confirmed the league’s and the players’ intentions to not only make meaningful improvements in working conditions and overall professional experience, but also to improve the business with strategic planning and intentional marketing that will keep the WNBA front and center year-round.”

“With cautious optimism and trusting the league’s renewed commitment and investment, the players demonstrated a willingness to ‘lean in’ themselves and show an even greater commitment and investment in the W,” Jackson said. “There are significant gains all across the board in this new agreement, and everything is in place for our players and the league to thrive.”

The previous CBA was ratified in 2014, while the players associated exercised an opt out that ended the deal in October 2019. The WNBA was still operating under the past CBA while the league and players association negotiated.

The league currently has 12 franchises, all located in the United States. While attendance dropped by 3.5 percent last season according to Sports Business Daily, the New York Times reported that TV ratings increased by 64 percent.

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