The case of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) players not receiving adequate remuneration and incentives for their exploits on the court has been a critical issue that is frequently discussed.
With the aim of improving the working conditions and the lives of the players, the WNBA announced a historic collective bargaining agreement on Tuesday that will see players, for the first time, receiving six-figure salaries, paid maternity leave as well as other incentives.
According to Good Morning America, the deal will see both rookie and veteran players earning from upwards of six-figure salaries, thus augmenting the current numbers by 53%.
The league’s star players will also earn up to $500,000 in cash compensation with others also notably earning between $200,000 and $300,000.
The historic announcement was made by WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert and Nneka Ogwumike, the WNBA Players Association president.
“We’re so proud of the players and their ability to unify around the important issues to them,” Engelbert told GMA about the deal. “And while they bargained hard, we came together, we collaborated and we have what we think is a groundbreaking agreement that’s going to support these players for the long-term and the next generation of players.”
Ogwumike is a WNBA champion and currently plays for the Los Angeles Sparks.
“We wanted to leave a legacy,” Ogwumike told GMA. “I think we came in understanding that it wasn’t just about the top player. It wasn’t just about the rookies. It was about every player across the board and we were really happy to be able to come together with the WNBA with actually a lot of innovative ideas.”
The aforementioned benefits aren’t the only improved packages in the deal. Cash rewards for players who receive MVP or rookie of the year awards have been increased. Opportunities to assist players better prepare for retirement have also been introduced.
GMA also reports that players who give birth are entitled to a full salary while on maternity leave. Costs for adoption, surrogacy as well as fertility/infertility treatment are also covered.
Players who are parents will additionally receive housing for their families and nursing areas for children at the workplace will be also made available.
A trailblazing deal, Engelbert and Ogwumike told GMA they hope it would be a blueprint for women in other sports disciplines and in the society at large.
“These are things to redefine what it means to be a professional female athlete in society today,” Engelbert said. “We’re hoping to lift not just women in sports, women in basketball but women in society.”
“Interestingly enough, as much as we fight for what we feel we deserve, we know that we deserve, we have women’s soccer, we have women’s hockey that are looking up to what we are looking to do,” Ogwumike added. “We are really hoping that it can set the tone and really create that legacy for women and sports moving forward.”
Other benefits in the deal include travel improvements (players will now be entitled to premium economy class airline tickets and individual rooms for away games), improved free agency, and career development.