In a time where female athletes across sports are speaking out against gender discrimination and pay inequalities, the WNBA has positioned itself as a leader by coming to a potential collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the players’ union that features salary increases, maternal and family leave benefits, and improved travel accommodations.
This agreement takes steps in closing the gap for WNBA players and is reflective of the fight for equality taking place in women’s sports. The U.S. women’s soccer team has been at the forefront of this fight, suing the U.S. Soccer Federation over gender discrimination with a trial date set for May after being handed class status. They earned $4 million for winning their fourth World Cup this summer as opposed to the French men’s team who earned $38 million for winning the 2018 Men’s World Cup.
If ratified by the league’s board of governors and union membership, the contract would come into effect in May of this year until 2027. Players could earn more than $500,000 from salaries, league marketing agreements, and bonus incentives, around three times the amount of last season’s ceiling. The maximum salary alone would rise from $117,500 to $215,000, an increase of nearly 83 percent.
Whereas the NBA splits league revenue with its players about 50-50, the WNBA currently only shares about 20-30 percent of its revenue with players. The new contract would be even with the NBA and share revenue equally. Many WNBA players play overseas in order to supplement their limited salaries. According to the Washington Post, the average salary in the WNBA in 2018 was approximately $70,000.
Provisions for maternity leave would additionally improve under the proposed CBA. Players would be able to earn a full salary on maternity leave with an additional child care stipend of $5,000. Arenas would feature designated spaces for nursing, and players could seek reimbursement for adoption, surrogacy, egg freezing, and fertility treatment in amounts up to $60,000. Travel accommodations would be upgraded for players with the contract providing for individual hotel rooms and economy plus flights.
In a quote from the Seattle Times, Sue Bird, a guard for the Seattle Storm and partner of USWNT player Megan Rapinoe, notes the importance of this contract for women in sports. “The deal represents moving forward both from a WNBA perspective, but also in general, for women in sports and society,” Bird said. “When you look at things like what we’re able to do with maternity leave and family planning … We’re going to be looked at as – I think – pioneers in the sports world.”
Sources: The New York Times, 1/14/20, 11/8//19; Time, 8/16/19; Seattle Times, 1/14/20; Washington Post, 1/14/20.