WNBA and WNBPA agree on groundbreaking 8-year collective bargaining agreement

Under the eight-year deal, which will run through 2027, top players can earn north of $500,000, which more than triples the maximum compensation under the previous deal.

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“I am pleased that this agreement guarantees substantial increases in compensation and progressive benefits for the women of the WNBA,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement. The WNBA and the players union agreed to an eight-year collective bargaining agreement.

“I am pleased that this agreement guarantees substantial increases in compensation and progressive benefits for the women of the WNBA,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement. The WNBA and the players union agreed to an eight-year collective bargaining agreement.

Patrick Semansky/AP

The WNBA and the Women’s National Basketball Players Association announced Tuesday that they agreed to terms on a historic collective-bargaining agreement that will drastically increase players’ salaries and improve their benefits beginning this season.

Under the eight-year deal, which will run through 2027, top players can earn north of $500,000, which more than triples the maximum compensation under the previous deal. In 2020, the maximum base salary is expected to increase almost 83 percent to $215,000. That number will increase by 3 percent in each of the following seasons.

Rookies and other players also will see a bump in their salaries. Though it’s unclear what the rookie base will be, the average cash compensation for players will exceed six figures starting in 2021, commissioner Cathy Engelbert said.

The WNBA will split its revenue 50-50 if it meets certain revenue targets in broadcast agreements, licensing deals and marketing partnerships.

Other highlights of the deal include an in-season “Commissioner Cup” competition that has a $750,000 purse for the winning team starting in 2021, and better travel accommodations, including premium economy class status for all players for regular-season air travel and individual hotel rooms for every player. In the past, only players with more than four years of experience could have their own hotel rooms.

The WNBA will offer fully paid maternity leave, a $5,000 annual child care stipend and two-bedroom apartments for players with children. Veteran players also will be able to be reimbursed up to $60,000 in costs directly related to adoption, surrogacy, oocyte cryopreservation or fertility/infertility treatment.

Engelbert said the deal signals the league’s promise of “betting on women.” But how will the league, which lost $12 million in 2017, afford this?

Engelbert pointed to the league’s new “Changemakers Partnership Platform,” also announced Tuesday, which will provide direct support to the WNBA’s business transformation across marketing, branding and player and fan experience. As of now, AT&T, Deloitte and Nike are the only partners.

She also said that team ownership groups have agreed to be more supportive and that the NBA will invest in a “number of ways,” though it’s not clear as to what extent.

“This is a multifaceted strategy to transform the league,” Engelbert said. “We’ve created new assets, we’re driving new revenue sources, so this really is about a new strategy to create additional value through other platforms and assets that includes ‘Changemakers,’ that includes special competitions, it includes other ways to engage fans and bring more fans in to drive fan engagement.”

The progressive deal marks a momentous occasion for the league’s current players, but it could have a large influence on the future of the WNBA.

“We’ve negotiated a deal that positions the league in a whole new light,” WNBPA president Nneka Ogwumike said. “To all the little girls and young women who play this game, it’s our hope that what we have accomplished in a 2020 collective-bargaining agreement provides a solid foundation for a league poised for greatness now and in the future.

“For us to have that investment moving forward, it’s huge. It’s monumental. Quite frankly, the fight doesn’t stop here. . . . I look forward to continuing to broaden my awareness and also make more impact for women in sports.”

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