WNBPA Focusing On Ending Players' Financial Need To Play Year-Round
Ending WNBA players' "financial need for nonstop play is a prime focus" of WNBPA Exec Dir Terri Jackson, and it "appears the league is supportive" of the idea as well, according to Howard Megdal of the N.Y. TIMES. If players did not play overseas during their offseason, the league's "quality of play would most likely rise and players who remained in their home market could promote their teams year-round." Jackson said, "It’s a matter that is top of mind for the executive committee and our larger CBA committee." Megdal noted that focus is "particularly important right now, after the players’ association opted out" of its CBA with the league late last year. Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said, "The year-round play for WNBA players is a detriment to the WNBA product. The physical and mental toll it takes on the league’s elite players is reflected in some of the league’s best sitting out the WNBA season to ‘rest,’ as well as these players sustaining injuries" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/21).
GOTTA CATCH A BREAK: ESPN.com's Mechelle Voepel noted after Seattle Storm F Breanna Stewart ruptured her Achilles while playing in Europe, some are "pointing to the almost year-round basketball schedule for women as the culprit." Injuries "can happen any time to players of all ages in a game or in practice," and Stewart is "far from the first WNBA player to be injured while playing overseas." However, considering the league and the players' union are "in the process of negotiating" a new CBA, it is fair to wonder if this situation will "make a difference going forward." It is "not really the number of games, but the lack of consistent, sustained time off that wears down WNBA players who also compete overseas." WNBA players "make the case that improvements in salary and other issues will result in an even better product that will continue to grow the league." The NBA has "countered that it loses money on the WNBA every year, and said it lost" $12M for '18. Greatly increased salaries happening in the next CBA is "likely unrealistic," but there is a "feeling that the union membership is more engaged than ever, and that everything is open to discussion" (ESPN.com, 4/17).
IT CAN BE DONE: ESPN’s Bomani Jones said, "You can say that this league doesn't make money, (but) do you want to have a topnotch league or not?" Jones: "Plenty of companies take losses for their own reasons if they want to. Somebody can find the money to pay these women a wage such so that your best players, if nothing else, don't have to go around the world to supplement their income” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 4/18). Connecticut Sun F Chiney Ogwumike, who is also a basketball analyst for ESPN, said WNBA players "know the financial realities of our league." She said despite the WNBA saying it lost $12M last year, "at the league level we definitely make more money as a whole." Ogwumike: "All the key indicators are up: ratings, streaming, merchandise sales. We’re not asking to be treated like NBA players financially obviously, but we’re just asking not to be treated like a charity. We’re the best women’s basketball league in the world. We want our business to have the same standard and real business requires real investment” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 4/20).