Women's Sport: WNBA and the WNBPA reach a historical agreement

The WNBA and the WNBPA have announced a landmark Collective Bargaining Agreement that subjects to its ratification, could transform the landscape for women in basketball and sport.

The agreement is wide-reaching. It would see salaries increase, meaning top players could earn over $500,000 and the average salary would rise to $130,000. Players would also get better travel perks, something that is common in men’s sport but less so for women.  

Crucially, under the new agreement which covers eight years including this season, players would receive a full salary while on maternity leave. They would also receive a new annual childcare stipend of $5,000 and provisions at their workplace for nursing.

Sport has a complicated relationship providing for mothers, something that is gradually changing but slowly. For the WNBA, operating in a country that doesn’t have statutory provisions for paid maternity leave, this is a big statement. 

The agreement takes a holistic approach. There are family planning benefits including financial provisions for veteran players for costs related to adoption, surrogacy and more. There are new free agency conditions, and career development clauses designed to support players out of season and into retirement.

There are mental health benefits, a domestic violence programme, the list goes on. It’s no surprise that Cathy Engelbert, the WNBA Commissioner, said on Good Morning America when announcing the deal: “We’re hoping to lift, not just women in sports and women in basketball, but women in society.”

In the statement announcing the deal, Engelbert said: “We approached these negotiations with a player-first agenda, and I am pleased that this agreement guarantees substantial increases in compensation and progressive benefits for the women of the WNBA.” 

She added: “We look forward to working together to make the WNBA a sustainable and thriving business for generations of women’s basketball players to come.”

A deal this comprehensive is impressive and lays down the gauntlet for other sports leagues. Here in the UK, it paints a stark contrast to the WSL, for example, where currently, clubs are not obliged to provide private medical insurance for their players. 

The WNBA was established in 1996 and so has many years on the relatively young WSL, but with the profile of women’s football growing at unprecedented rates, it surely won’t be long until players expect more comprehensive contracts. 

This extensive deal takes into account all aspects of a female athlete’s experience. The maternity and family planning provisions, in particular, are exactly the support businesses and teams should provide, allowing their employees the space to thrive and pursue all their goals.

Let’s hope the WSL and other leagues take note. If this is what the 2020s hold for women in sport and beyond, we are in for a truly exciting decade.

News Now - Sport News