W.N.B.A. Makes ‘Big Bet on Women’ that has a fresh Contract

The W.N.B.A. along with its players’ union have signaled a radical shift in how female athletes are to be compensated that has a tentative contract agreement that will might sharply increase salaries along with provide generous maternal benefits in a move Commissioner Cathy Engelbert called “a big bet on women.”

The implications of the agreement stretch far beyond basketball at a time when women around the entire world are demanding increased pay along with benefits, on their own merit along with as a challenge to historically unequal pay that will leaves them earning less than men for similar work. The pushback has been most visible in soccer, where the United States women’s national team has sued its governing body, along with star players like Megan Rapinoe have spoken out. yet the fight also can be going on in tennis, hockey, track along with field along with additional sports.

The proposed W.N.B.A. contract, which still must be approved by the league’s board of governors along with the union’s membership, might enable top players to earn more than $500,000, about triple last season’s ceiling along with far more than had ever seemed possible since the league’s first season in 1997.

yet amid a broader cultural reckoning over disparities in how society regards women along with men, the league’s 12 teams have attracted increased attention, along with its players have felt more empowered to push for better pay along with benefits.

“What we have here can be a multidimensional pay structure as well as benefit structure,” Engelbert said in a phone interview. “We’ve actually gone all out here. We’re producing a big bet on This particular league, a big bet on women, along with that will in professional sports, that will the W.N.B.A. can lead the way.”

Low salaries along with limited or nonexistent maternity benefits have been two of the most-discussed issues inside debate over compensation for female athletes. Under This particular deal, the maximum W.N.B.A. salary might increase almost 83 percent, to $215,000 through $117,500. along with while some people think that will the players, in pushing for better pay, have been asking to earn the same multimillion-dollar salaries as their counterparts inside N.B.A., the union’s leaders have insisted that will what they want can be a comparable share of their league’s revenue, which This particular agreement might allow.

The N.B.A., which created the W.N.B.A. in 1996 along with shares ownership with the women’s teams, splits its revenue about 50-50 with the men’s players. inside W.N.B.A., the players are estimated to receive just 20 to 30 percent of league revenue. By 2021, if the league reaches certain revenue markers in broadcast agreements, marketing partnerships along with licensing deals, the W.N.B.A. along with its players could be splitting revenue equally. The contract might last for eight years, through 2027.

This particular agreement also might provide maternity leave with full salary, a dedicated space in arenas for nursing mothers along that has a $5,000 child care stipend. Veteran players also might be able to seek reimbursement for up to $60,000 in costs directly related to adoption, surrogacy, egg freezing along with fertility treatment.

“We have several mothers inside league, along with we had players that will talked to us about what they realized they needed while they were playing,” Nneka Ogwumike, the W.N.B.A. players’ union president, said in a phone interview on Monday.

In exchange for these along with additional benefits can be a fresh requirement that will will be gradually phased in: Players must be in W.N.B.A. training camps through the start. No more reporting late, or even after the season begins, to finish commitments to clubs overseas, with exceptions built in only for national team play along with players in their first three seasons. Players, through superstars to rookies, have long supplemented their league pay by competing for clubs overseas during the off-season.

“We had to be incredibly innovative with This particular,” Ogwumike said. “along with to be honest, with what the league wanted, we understood that will the idea might take some novel change to get the league where we want the idea to go. We wanted to ensure that will the idea can be still allowing players the opportunity to get the salaries that will we are used to getting in both markets while also phasing in a system that will will hold the league as a certain priority.”

The year-round play of some players has had its consequences. Last year, Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart ruptured her right Achilles’ tendon while playing overseas along with missed the entire 2019 season while she was the reigning Most Valuable Player Award winner.

that will along with additional examples of players returning fatigued or injured have prompted the league along with union to find ways to encourage players to stay stateside more.

The league has agreed to add $1.6 million annually in what are being called league marketing agreements, up to $250,000 for any one player, Engelbert said. For a top player, This particular fresh deal could mean 1-season salary of $215,000, another $250,000 in a league marketing agreement, plus bonus incentives for things like All-Star appearances along with awards that will could push her total compensation above $500,000.

The W.N.B.A. also will team with additional leagues — the N.B.A. along with its developmental league along with college basketball — to promote its own players for potential coaching openings. along with Engelbert said players coaching inside N.B.A. could be paid market rate, even if the men’s team was affiliated that has a W.N.B.A. team. This particular became an issue last season when Mystics guard Kristi Toliver, because of pay restrictions inside expiring collective bargaining agreement, could earn just $10,000 as an assistant coach for the Washington Wizards. that will can be no longer an issue, Engelbert said.

The W.N.B.A. season itself also will change in some dramatic ways, if the deal can be approved. A 34-game campaign in 2019 will become a 36-game slate next season. along with the games themselves will be different, thanks to another innovation: the Commissioner’s Cup.

Certain games on the 2020 schedule will be designated as Cup games, with separate standings due to This particular in-season competition. The two teams with the best records in Cup games will play for the Commissioner’s Cup title. Starting in 2021, the prize money for in-season tournaments will be a minimum of $750,000.

The players’ experience, too, will be improved upon in ways that will reflect both their day-to-day priorities along with lifestyle choices.

The league’s teams, which provide housing, will currently guarantee two-bedroom apartments for players with children. Travel, long a source of frustration among players, will currently include individual instead of shared hotel rooms for every player. yet players will still have to fly on commercial, not charter, planes to games, though they will receive economy-plus flight accommodations.

Player movement, too, will become easier, echoing an N.B.A. trend to give players more opportunities to change teams or sign fresh deals. inside last W.N.B.A. agreement, players could not reach unrestricted free agency until they had played six full seasons. that will number might become all 5. The leagues will, over the next several years, reduce how many times a team can designate someone as a core player along with therefore prevent them, even as an unrestricted free agent, through leaving the team.

The sum of fresh investment, accounting for league along with team-specific initiatives, can be nearly $1 million per team per season.

Engelbert said she expected unanimous approval by the league’s board of governors. This particular was not, Engelbert emphasized, simply a question of fairness. Rather, she said she believed that will a greater investment might pay off in ways that will reflected both the rise of women’s sports along with the W.N.B.A.’s position to lead on that will front.

“We believe This particular can be the best deal to drive a return on investment during the term of This particular agreement,” Engelbert said. “yet no doubt, a lot of these elements are setting up the future for the next generation of players to be in a great place — for the current stars to leave behind a legacy for the next generation.”

Ogwumike said she had been too busy negotiating to think about her legacy, yet she saw the definition of women’s professional basketball changing in a deal she required to outlast her playing career.

“We wanted to create a league in which the idea can be clearly a viable option to play inside W.N.B.A.,” Ogwumike said. “So we’re providing a fresh starting line for those who come after us.”

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