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SBD/14/Leagues Governing Bodies
WNBA PLAYERS' EYE ON UNIONIZATION EARNS FRONT-PAGE NOTICE
Published April 14, 1998
With the WNBA set to begin its second season on June 11, its players "are wondering whether they need to ask for more" and unionizing is one alternative that has "growing appeal," according to Lena Williams in a front-page feature in Sunday's N.Y. TIMES. Players and agents say that under their WNBA deals, players "can be terminated at any time, cannot endorse products that compete with the league's 15 sponsors, are not entitled to percentages from sales of team merchandise and receive health benefits only when they play." Some players add that the language of the WNBA's contracts "is so ambiguous that it is unclear whether players are entitled to be paid if injured." Others say that WNBA players "are in certain ways worse off financially than" ABL players, who receive a higher average salary and "receive better benefits." So WNBA players are talking and "trying to figure out who might represent them and how to get what they want without hurting the league they fought so hard to create." The NBPA said it would like to represent the women and "many" players feel it would be the "logical choice." The Women's Coaches Association is "also lobbying for the job" along with a "handful" of sports agents. But some players have "expressed reservations about joining ranks with the men" and feel they aren't concerned about the same issues. League execs are "wary of the impact of a union." WNBA President Val Ackerman admits unionization "is likely. We accept its possibility. But in some respects it does seem premature" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/12).