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The Impact of the WNBA's New Collective Bargaining Agreement

Kierra Wright

Last month, the WNBA's Players Union and the league settled a new collective bargaining agreement that will begin with the next season and run for eight years. The biggest issue with the old agreement was that players earned less than 25 percent Basketball Related Income or BRI.

Under the new agreement, players will receive a 53 percent increase in total cash compensation, consisting of base salary, additional performance bonuses, prize pools for newly created in-season competitions, and league and team marketing deals. This means that the W's top athletes will be able to earn cash compensation exceeding $500,000, with a maximum salary a player can earn increasing nearly $100,000.

But most importantly, if the league achieves revenue growth targets, players can earn 50 percent BRI starting with the 2021 season.

Another issue with the former CBA was quality of travel. Players were required to fly coach and share rooms during road games. Now all players are guaranteed premium economy class air travel and individual hotel room accommodations.

The previous CBA put allowance caps on off-season earnings when players worked for the same corporate body that owned their W club. While it’s not clear if the new agreement excludes earning caps, the league will work with affiliated organizations, teams, and sponsors to provide off-season job opportunities to prepare players for post-playing careers.

Perhaps the most important benefits W players will enjoy are those related to their health and overall wellbeing. Expectant and new mothers will receive their full salaries while on maternity leave, which is a marked improvement to the 50 percent they were entitled to under the old agreement. They will also receive an annual childcare stipend; and progressive family planning benefits for adoption, surrogacy, and fertility treatment. The agreement also includes enhanced mental health benefits and resources.  

These new terms will likely increase players’ competitive edge and commitment to the league. And if the W meets or exceeds revenue growth targets in the next several years, we'll likely see a spike in the intensity of women's college basketball as well, since more of those athletes will be shooting for a chance to make it to the W instead of immediately seeking post graduate careers.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of all of the elements of the W's new CBA, nor are these terms the end-all-be-all for improving the conditions of the players in the league. But it is a solid foundation for building an equitable system for current and future players.

I’m Robin Boylorn, until next time, keep it crunk!

*The denotes WNBA

Written by Brittany Young

Edited by Robin Boylorn


Brittany Young is Alabama Public Radio's Program Director and Content Manager. Brittany began her public radio journey in the spring of 2015 as a news intern for APR while in graduate school at The University of Alabama.
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