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WNBPA Still Can’t Come To Collective Bargaining Agreeement With League

It's time for the players - the driving force behind the league's overall success - to eat.

In November of 2018, the players’ labor union, the WNBPA, exercised its right to opt-out of the collective bargaining agreement after this season rather than waiting until the deal expired in 2021. 

Since the beginning of the WNBA season in May, the WNBA and its players have been attempting to hammer out a new agreement, along with some transparency regarding the revenue structure  They hoped to have  a deal done by Halloween, but the WNBA and WNBPA issued the following statement today:

“The WNBA and WNBPA have agreed to extend the current collective bargaining
agreement for sixty days to December 31 and will continue discussions regarding a new
agreement.” 

 

The WNBA made serious power moves this offseason, implementing upgrades in the Draft, social media reach, increased live streaming and TV games on expanded channels, which led to increased ratings.

The league also secured a new two-year collective bargaining deal with the National Basketball Referees Association (NBRA), the union representing the WNBA referees.

Now it’s time for the players — the driving force behind the league’s overall success —  to eat. Poor salaries, franchises being thrust out of their arenas, and teams not being treated with professionalism have been the main points of contention.

Over the past year, WNBA players have been increasingly vocal about the pay disparity between WNBA and NBA players. 

According to an article on theringer.com, 

“Last year, the New York Liberty were moved from Madison Square Garden, where they’d played since the league’s inception in 1997, to the Westchester County Center in White Plains, 30 miles from Manhattan. Despite drawing nearly 10,000 fans a game at MSG, the Liberty were shuttled out to the suburbs to play in a 5,000-seat facility; as a result, their attendance dropped by 70 percent. (The Washington Mystics also moved last year from the 20,000-seat Capital One Arena to a 4,200-seat arena in Congress Heights.)

The Liberty’s move reportedly saved money in operating costs for then-owner James Dolan—who held the team in such contempt that in 2015 he handed the reins to Isiah Thomas. Dolan finally sold the Liberty to Nets minority owner Joseph Tsai this past winter. 

On August 3, 2018, the Las Vegas Aces had to forfeit a game after a series of canceled flights left them stranded on the road for more than 25 hours and got them to Washington, D.C., just a few hours before their scheduled tipoff against the Mystics. (Like all WNBA teams, the Aces fly commercial.) Despite the fact that this contest had an impact on the Aces’ playoff chances—the forfeit dropped them two and a half games out of the last playoff spot—all the league did was offer to move the game back an hour and briefly give the team permission to search for a charter flight (though none were available on such short notice).

This offseason, Mystics guard Kristi Toliver accepted an offer to work as an assistant coach for the Wizards. Both teams are owned by Ted Leonsis, which makes for an easy transition from playing women’s basketball to coaching men’s basketball under the same umbrella; this is how Becky Hammon first landed her assistant coaching gig with the San Antonio Spurs. And because blazing a trail matters more when others follow, the job offer for Toliver was a win for everyone involved.

Until it came down to pay. The league allows players to take offseason jobs, but there’s only a $50,000 total allowance per team if they work for the same corporate body that owns their WNBA club. So if Toliver wanted to be an NBA assistant coach for the Wizards—a position that typically comes with a six-figure salary—she’d have to take a salary of just $10,000, as much of the other $40,000 was already promised to her teammate, Elena Delle Donne, for other offseason work.

For this reason, players often spend their offseasons playing overseas, which brings in the potential for huge earnings but also a relentless travel grind and an increased risk of injury.”

An agreement has to be struck where the players feel appreciated and respected for being the No. 1 women’s professional league in the world. 

Not sure what issues are holding up the process, but you can be assured it surrounds money, power, and respect and the women of the WNBA are prepared to take stands that they never have in the past.

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