Success Of WNBA CBA Will Depend On Stronger Financial Support
The WNBA's new CBA includes a number of improvements for the players, and the question now is how the league will "afford" the changes, according to Madeline Kenney of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. Changes include "better travel accommodations, including premium economy class status for all players for regular-season air travel and individual hotel rooms for every player." The WNBA lost $12M in '17, and new Commissioner Cathy Engelbert "pointed to the league's new 'Changemakers Partnership Platform,'" which will "provide direct support to the WNBA's business transformation." She also said that team ownership groups have "agreed to be more supportive and that the NBA will invest in a 'number of ways,' though it's not clear as to what extent." This "progressive deal" could have a "large influence on the future of the WNBA" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/15).
SUSTAINABLE APPROACH: USA TODAY's Jeff Zillgitt notes the new CBA "aims to make the WNBA a thriving and sustainable business model for teams and players and one that will create growth and opportunities for future generations." The new deal's improvements are "significant, and while it's certainly a win for the players, it might also be a win for the league, which is betting on its players (their on-court talent and off-court marketability) to help create revenue streams that will benefit both sides." Engelbert would not have "made this deal if she didn't believe there is money out there" for the league (USA TODAY, 1/15). On Long Island, Barbara Barker writes the WNBA "bet not only on its product," it "bet there are plenty of potential fans and sponsors out there who believe the world would be a better place if women didn't make a fraction of what men do and they had a workplace that was more responsive to both their career and family goals." This deal is about "being a leader on and off the court" (NEWSDAY, 1/15). ESPN’s Rachel Nichols said this CBA is a "smashing success" compared to the last deal (“The Jump,” ESPN, 1/14).
VALUING THEIR OWN: In DC, Ava Wallace notes the WNBA is "hoping the new deal makes the league a priority for its top players" who before might choose to play overseas instead (WASHINGTON POST, 1/15). In L.A., Bill Shaikin writes the "legacy of the agreement should be determined not by individual salaries but by what Engelbert called 'collaborative marketing.'" The players "opted out" of their previous CBA "in part because they were tired of having to play overseas to earn top dollar and frustrated that they were not marketed well enough to make top dollar" in the U.S. Under the new CBA, the WNBA and its players "pledge to work jointly on year-round marketing, which could require some players to skip making money abroad in the hope of making more money here." The league said that it would "share revenue with the players on a 50-50 basis once it hit targets for broadcasting, licensing and sponsorships," but did not say what those targets were or "how many more millions would need to be raised to hit them." Engelbert, in a conference call discussing the new CBA, was "short on specifics and long on marketing jargon" (L.A. TIMES, 1/15). In Phoenix, Jeff Metcalfe writes with this new CBA, the WNBA "took a major step toward solidifying its future" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 1/15).
PLAYER APPROVED: WNBPA Exec Committee VP and Sparks F Chiney Ogwumike said the new CBA is "not only a win for women in sports," but a "win for women, period." Ogwumike: "A lot of people talk about the salary, but there's also wins with player experience, player health and well-being, so it's a holistic CBA." She added the "biggest thing" is that the new deal shows the NBA is "betting on women." Ogwumike: "They are investing in women, and that's the most important thing." Ogwumike also said the CBA "accomplished" its goal of keeping top players in the WNBA, not going overseas for an "additional compensation package" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/15). Sparks F Candace Parker added, "This is a huge step forward." She said, "The biggest concern in the WNBA was, in order to have a product, you have to invest money into it. We improved that by having the league being mandated to have a certain amount of money go toward marketing, which I think is huge." Basketball HOFer Isiah Thomas, who is N.Y. Liberty President & Alternate Governor, said the new CBA is a "huge step of continuation" for the league. Thomas said much like the "NBA and its inception, in its first 20-25 years of growth," the WNBA had "some hurdles that it had to overcome (and) corporate America has got to make the decision that they're going to get on board, back the league and be a part of this league." Basketball HOFer Grant Hill added, "This was a big step. This was a huge step. It's progress, but there are more steps that need to occur" ("Gametime, NBA TV, 1/15).