Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 22 No. 27
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

League continues labor talks as players seek new pay structure

WNBA players want to move toward a new pay structure that doesn’t force players to choose between playing in the league or playing overseas, where the pay is far greater, said Nneka Ogwumike, the union’s president.

“We don’t want players to have to make that tough decision of whether they want to play in the WNBA, where they are playing at home, or playing overseas, where they are making more money,” said Ogwumike, who is a power forward on the Los Angeles Sparks as well as the player president of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association.

The WNBA and WNBPA have been in discussions about a new labor deal after the union exercised its option last fall to end the current collective-bargaining agreement early. The agreement, which was reached in 2014, originally was set to end in October 2021, but the CBA will now expire on Oct. 31 or the day following the last playoff game, whichever is later.

“Our conversations with the WNBPA have been very productive,” said Mark Tatum, NBA deputy commissioner and COO. “We are committed to working together in an open and good-faith process and are confident the result will be a fair deal for both sides.”

Ogwumike did not give specifics about the meetings between the union and the league but said they have been in ongoing discussions. “I imagine things will really pick up now that everyone’s back in the states,” she added of players who work overseas during the WNBA offseason.

Unlike the major men’s team sports in North America, many female basketball players have no off-season. That’s because many of the stars go to Europe or Asia to earn more money.

The WNBA season runs from May to October and many overseas women’s basketball leagues run from about October to May. Ogwumike, the 2016 WNBA MVP, helped lead the Guangdong Vermilion Birds to the Women’s Chinese Basketball Association championship in March.

The average WNBA player compensation last year was $116,000, while top players made more than $187,000.

“Most players agree that they get paid more overseas than they do in the WNBA,” Ogwumike said. “It’s safe to say that some players can make what they make in the WNBA in a month or two overseas. You are looking at maybe between three and five times more.”

Those connected to the WNBA have said they have to grow revenue to increase player pay and have focused on increasing both sponsorship and ticket revenue in hopes of being able to address compensation.

Pay is not the only issue, and WNBA players don’t expect a complete change overnight. But they want the league to move toward the compensation model of other international leagues.