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Volume 26 No. 203
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WNBPA To Opt Out Of CBA; Revenue, Financial Transparency Hot Issues

Players and WNBA and NBA execs have long been at odds over the league’s pay scale and marketing
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Players and WNBA and NBA execs have long been at odds over the league’s pay scale and marketing
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Players and WNBA and NBA execs have long been at odds over the league’s pay scale and marketing
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The WNBPA will "opt out" of the league’s CBA after the '19 season, "starting the clock early for negotiations with the league over a larger slice of revenue and financial transparency," according to Jacob Bogage of the WASHINGTON POST. Studies state that the league pays players "roughly" 20% of total revenue. The NBA "pays players about half of league revenue," or about $3B. The WNBA "rarely shares concrete financial information, even with players, one of the main sticking points that led players to leave the current agreement." The current deal was "set to expire" in October '21, but "opting out allows negotiations to start now and a new agreement can take effect" in the '20 season. Players and league execs have "long been at odds" over "pay scale and marketing investment." Players "contend a salary bump and increased resources for exposure will help the WNBA reach a larger audience and boost the women’s game’s finances" (WASHINGTON POST, 11/2). ESPN.com's Mechelle Voepel noted the players, "many of whom are with their overseas teams, cast their ballots" on the decision to opt out through an "online voting process" that was open Oct. 14-21. A CBA committee "made up of WNBA players studied whether opting out was the best option, taking part in conference calls and two in-person meetings" (ESPN.com, 11/1).

NUMBERS GAME: In N.Y., Victor Mather notes the WNBA median base salary was "about $73,000 last season, and the top base salary is $115,500," with "some players making more from performance-based and other bonuses." Those numbers "lag behind top women’s European leagues and China, where many top women’s players can earn $500,000 or more." Many players "play essentially year-round, heading overseas when the WNBA's summer schedule is over." Some have "skipped WNBA seasons entirely," like Phoenix Mercury G Diana Taurasi, who sat out the '15 season while earning more than $1M in Russia (N.Y. TIMES, 11/2). The AP's Doug Feinberg wrote travel woes and player fatigue "came to the forefront last season when the schedule was crammed into 13 weeks because of the FIBA Women's World Cup." It was "three weeks shorter" than the '17 season. Then, the Las Vegas Aces "forfeited a game" against the Washington Mystics when the team "endured 26 hours of travel and didn't arrive in DC until a few hours before the scheduled tip." Players have "discussed flying on charter planes, but the league says the cost is prohibitive" (AP, 11/1).

MORE THAN MONEY: L.A. Sparks F and WNBPA President Nneka Ogwumike in a special to THE PLAYERS' TRIBUNE wrote, "In opting out of this CBA, our primary objective is full transparency. We just want information about where the league is as a business, so that we can come together and make sound decisions for the future of the game." Players "never get to see the numbers" and "don’t know how the league is doing." Opting out is "not an adversarial thing," but players want to "figure out how to make common-sense changes that will help our players’ quality of life." This is "not purely about salaries," it is also about "small changes the league can make that will impact the players." Ogwumike: "This is about a six-foot-nine superstar taking a red-eye cross-country and having to sit in an economy seat instead of an exit row" (THEPLAYERSTRIBUNE.com, 11/1). She added of opting to terminate the current CBA, “We didn’t come to this decision overnight. It was definitely a deliberate choice. ... We've had a lot of outspoken players talking about a lot of things that we want. But for us it's about the overall player experience. The game isn't the game without us." Ogwumike said of salary increases as a rationale for the opt out, "It's easy to say that. ... But that also starts with how the business is run" ("OTL," ESPN, 11/1).

TWO SIDES TO THE COIN: NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO and WNBA interim President Mark Tatum said of the state of the WNBA, “We want this league to thrive, we want it to be great. ... The league has sustained incredible losses from the inception 22 years ago, including a $12 million loss just last season. But those are investments that the NBA's making. What I would say is the players' association has all of those financials. They have access to that. We've shared it with them, and what we are looking forward to doing is having a fully open, transparent, engaging discussion around the business realities that exist in the league." He added of WNBA players' issues with salaries, "Over the last 22 years, we've invested more than any other professional sports league ... has invested in women sports. ... Just in the time that the WNBA has been in existence in 22 years, seven other women's professional sports leagues have come and gone and they haven't had the support of an organization like the NBA" ("OTL," ESPN, 11/1).