WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert speaks at a press conference in Washington. The WNBA and its union announced a preliminary eight-year agreement on Tuesday, January 14, 2020. (AP Photo / Patrick Semansky, File)
NEW YORK (AP) – The WNBA and its union announced a preliminary eight-year contract on Tuesday that will allow top players to earn more than $ 500,000, with average annual remuneration exceeding the six-digit figure for the first time.
The contract, which starts this season and runs until 2027, pays players an average of $ 130,000 and guarantees full salaries during maternity leave. The agreement also offers improved family benefits, travel standards and other health and well-being improvements.
“I call it historic,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert in a telephone interview. “The CBA guarantees significant (financial) increases. The way we pay these players is different than in the past. … The top pair players tripled (in salary) where they were. Other players earn $ 200,000-300,000. The average is over $ 130,000. Everyone gets an addition here. “
The agreement, which must be ratified by owners and players, provides for a 50:50 breakdown of revenue from 2021, based on the league achieving revenue growth targets from broadcasting contracts, marketing partnerships, and licensing agreements.
“I was adamant about the 50-50 goal,” said Engelbert. “The league and the players work together to market this league so that we can share the revenue with the players. We have to achieve some goals. “
The salary cap will rise 31% in the first year to $ 1.3 million – from $ 996,000 in 2021 to $ 750,000 for special competitions. Under this deal, the maximum base salary would increase from $ 117,500 to $ 215,000.
“You can pay your stars. This is how the league grows, ”said Engelbert.
This will be the fifth CBA for the WNBA that was introduced in 1997. Like the last one, there is a mutual opt-out determination after six years.
The CBA also proposes a minimum of $ 1.6 million for off-season league and team marketing contracts that bring select players up to $ 300,000 in additional annual cash.
The rookie scale for the Nos. 1-4 picks will increase to $ 68,000 – an increase of approximately $ 15,000 this year – plus the opportunity to qualify for the league-guaranteed money under the marketing agreement.
“It was a collaboration,” said WNBA player union president Nneka Ogwumike. “I think we all really had the same goals and a different way of getting there. We really put our heads together and came up with some ideas. “
Ogwumike said the work pact offers players more financial incentives to stay in the off-season than play abroad. Former MVP Breanna Stewart tore an Achilles tendon overseas last year and missed the entire WNBA season. Diana Taurasi paused a season a few years ago because her Russian team paid her over $ 1 million and she wanted to rest.
“This agreement reflects game growth and league growth, and then revenue share will increase,” said Ogwumike. “Revenue sharing is your best step forward.”
Engelbert said the extra money needed to fund the CBA will come from a variety of sources.
“Teams and owners are strengthening. The league will be increased, ”said the commissioner, who started last July.
She also praised the new “Changemakers” program, where key sponsors helped the WNBA transform marketing, branding, player and fan experiences. AT&T, Nike and Deloitte are the first three business partners.
“We hope to raise not only women in sports and women in basketball, but also women in society,” said Engelbert.
The league will also add a few games to its schedule and add a season cup for commissioners this year. Other highlights of the CBA are:
—Travel improvements where players get premium economy airline tickets and single rooms on road trips. In the past, players flew coaches and some shared rooms.
– A more liberal free agency system that will allow players to become unrestricted free agents from next year if they don’t get the “core” provision from their team. It also reduces the frequency with which a player can be appointed from four to three from this year and to two from 2022.
– During maternity leave, players receive their full salary. You will receive two-bedroom apartments for players with children, as well as workplace accommodations that offer privacy to nursing mothers.
—The League also introduces up to $ 60,000 family planning benefits that reimburse veterans for costs directly related to adoption, surrogacy, and fertility treatment.
– Improved mental health and resources.