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Contracts for women's basketball players is improvement

Nneka Ogwumike plays forward for the Los Angeles Sparks. She was also elected President of the WNBA Players Association and helped with CBA negotiations. – Photo by Instagram

The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA) reached a tentative collective bargaining agreement (CBA) two months ago that increases the player’s salary by 53 percent and paves the way for present and future female athletes.

Some of the key clauses relate to salary, performance-based bonuses, marketing, travel, motherhood, free agency, career development and quality of life. Under the new agreement, top players can earn a maximum annual salary of $215,000 and the minimum salary for inexperienced players will increase to $57,000 annually.

One of the other key agreements relates to motherhood and family. The clauses cover paid maternity leave, an annual child care stipend, living accommodations for players with children and family planning benefits that cover adoption, surrogacy and fertility or infertility treatment. In a country that doesn’t have mandatory paid maternity leave in place, this marks a significant step in the right direction and sets the tone for other women’s leagues around the country. 

There are also progressive views which acknowledge the struggle that many women go through when starting a family and when they want to work and take care of their family with paid child care and adoption and surrogacy coverage, according to the clause.

The improvement of travel conditions is another major talking point of the agreement. In the former agreement, players had to fly coach, but the new CBA clause stipulates that all players are entitled to Premium Economy class flying during the regular season. 

Why does this matter? Well, during the 2018 season, the Las Vegas Aces had to forfeit a game due to flight delays and cancellations. In comparison, many NBA teams have their own privately chartered jets that can fly their players and coaches to and from their games.

Additionally, in past years, many WNBA players would jet off to other countries during the off-season and play for different club teams to help supplement their income. This meant that they would never get a chance to rest their bodies which could lead to an increase in injuries and fatigue. 

Providing an incentive for players to stay home through salary increases, bonuses and other benefits could not only lead to a higher level of competition, but also expand the talent pool and incentivize more women to stay in professional basketball.

Even with all the other clauses, the marketing budget to have the biggest impact on the WNBA, according to Teen Vogue. The increase in money allocated toward marketing and advertisements means an increase in visibility for women’s basketball. It also leaves room for the possibility of more revenue from ticket sales and merchandise as well as sponsorship deals for the players and teams. 

While the agreement includes ground-breaking clauses related to motherhood, the WNBA still has a lot of room to grow to match the salary and benefits that NBA players have access to. The highest paid WNBA player in 2019 was forward DeWanna Bonner who earned an annual salary of $127,500. Meanwhile, the highest paid NBA player during the 2019-2020 season is Stephen Curry with approximately $40.2 million and whose salary is set to increase even more in the following seasons.

Basketball isn’t the only sport where there’s a severe gender pay gap. The gender pay gap is one of the biggest issues that’s affecting the sports industry. The U.S. women’s national soccer team even sued U.S. soccer last year for gender discrimination and accused it of skimping on their salaries compared to their male counterparts. 

Alex Morgan, the highest paid female soccer player in the world earns an annual income of $450,000, while Lionel Messi is the highest earning soccer player, raking in a total $127 million annually including salary, bonuses and endorsements, according to Forbes.

The new CBA demonstrates an acknowledgment of the issues that plague the WNBA as well as the sports industry and them, at the very least, attempting to try to remedy the situation and improve its player’s lives. It also sets up the future of women in sports. Improved working conditions, salaries and benefits, may encourage more girls to consider a future in professional sports

Even though the WNBA and the NBA aren’t on a level playing field yet, the CBA marks a significant step toward equality in sports and lays the basic groundwork for future CBAs and other sports to follow suit.

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