8-year la­bor deal to hike aver­age salary to $130,000

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - SPORTS - AP Bas­ket­ball Writer

By Doug Fein­berg

NEW YORK (AP) >> The WNBA and its union an­nounced a ten­ta­tive eightyear la­bor deal Tues­day that will al­low top play­ers to earn more than $500,000 while the aver­age an­nual com­pen­sa­tion will sur­pass six fig­ures for the first time.

The con­tract, which begins this sea­son and runs through 2027, will pay play­ers an aver­age of $130,000 and guar­an­tees full salaries while on ma­ter­nity leave. The col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ment also pro­vides en­hanced fam­ily benefits, travel stan­dards and other health and well­ness im­prove­ments.

“I call it his­toric,” WNBA Com­mis­sioner Cathy En­gel­bert said in a phone in­ter­view. “The CBA guar­an­tees sub­stan­tial (fi­nan­cial) in­creases. The way we are pay­ing th­ese play­ers is dif­fer­ent than the past . ... The top cou­ple play­ers are tripling (in pay) where they were. Other play­ers are making $200,000-300,000. The aver­age will be over $130,000. Ev­ery­one gets an in­crease here.”

The deal was over­whelm­ingly ap­proved by play­ers and must still be rat­i­fied by own­ers. It calls for 5050 rev­enue sharing start­ing in 2021, based on the league achiev­ing rev­enue growth tar­gets from broad­cast agree­ments, mar­ket­ing part­ner­ships and li­cens­ing deals.

“I was adamant on the 50-50 tar­get,” En­gel­bert said. “The league and play­ers work to­gether to mar­ket this league so we can share rev­enue with the play­ers. We have to hit some tar­gets.”

The salary cap will go up 31% to $1.3 mil­lion in the first year — up from $996,000 and an­other $750,000 in prize money for spe­cial com­pe­ti­tions ar­rives in 2021. Un­der this deal, the max­i­mum base salary would in­crease to $215,000 from $117,500.

“You can pay your stars. That’s how the league grows,” En­gel­bert said.

This will be the fifth CBA for the WNBA, which launched in 1997. Like the last one, there is a mu­tual opt-out pro­vi­sion af­ter six years.

The CBA also pro­poses a min­i­mum of $1.6 mil­lion in off­sea­son league and team mar­ket­ing agree­ments that would cre­ate up to $300,000 in ad­di­tional an­nual cash for se­lect play­ers.

The rookie scale for the Nos. 1-4 picks will rise to $68,000 — an in­crease of about $15,000 from this year — plus the abil­ity to qual­ify for league-guar­an­teed money un­der the mar­ket­ing agree­ment.

“It was col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort,’” WNBA play­ers’ union pres­i­dent Nneka Og­wu­mike said. “I think that we re­ally all had the same things in mind and had dif­fer­ent way of get­ting there. We re­ally put our heads to­gether and came with some ideas.”

Og­wu­mike said the la­bor pact pro­vides more fi­nan­cial in­cen­tive for play­ers to stay in the off­sea­son in­stead of play­ing over­seas. For­mer league MVP Bre­anna Ste­wart tore an Achilles ten­don over­seas last year and missed the en­tire WNBA sea­son. Diana Taurasi sat out a sea­son a few years ago be­cause her Rus­sian team was pay­ing her more than $1 mil­lion and wanted her to rest.

“This agree­ment is re­flec­tive of the game grow­ing and the league grow­ing and then the rev­enue share will grow,” Og­wu­mike said. “Rev­enue sharing is putting your best foot for­ward.”

PATRICK SEMANSKY - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

FILE - In this Sept. 29, 2019, file photo, WNBA Com­mis­sioner Cathy En­gel­bert speaks at a news con­fer­ence in Wash­ing­ton.

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