By Joshua M Hicks (@jhicks042)
The WNBA made history this week after coming to an agreement with its players on a new collective bargaining agreement that takes the league through its 2027 season.
Including vast improvements to the players’ pay and benefits, this upddated CBA is being universally applauded for improving much of what seemed obviously wrong regarding pay and benefits for the vast majority of athletes in the league.
We must credit the WNBA executive office for their efforts in working with their players association to advance obvious issues, but one must also ask does this historic deal deliver the true satisfaction that the WNBA in general deserves? The answer is no.
There are many positives to this record-breaking deal: improved conditions of road travel is a factor in the CBA, making travel and lodging during the regular season more comfortable for players plays a huge role in preparation for games on a daily basis.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, a lack of proper rest/sleep affects your split-decision making compared to someone who is well-rested. Sleep depriviation increase levels of hormone stress and the possibility of fatigue, low energy and poor focus during game time, while also slows down the recovery process post game.
Sharing a room and beds with your teammates can play a role within your lack of rest, affecting other parts of your physical and mental states. Upgrading each player to their own hotel room provides the proper space for proper rest that an athlete needs.
Garnering the most attention in the CBA announcement was the league also making a huge step in raising the maximum salaries of players. This should especially effect top talent in the league, as will expected efforts to collaborate with other professional leagues in other nations to make the WNBA a priority for its players year-round and not an afterthought to better paying organizations in Europe and elsewhere.
Throughout the history of the WNBA, top American players like Diana Taurasi have gone overseas while the WNBA was in its off-season to continue bringing in extra income. Unfortunately, this produced moments like Breanna Stewart tearing her Achillies in 2019 while playing overseas, which eliminated her from playing in last year’s WNBA in order to recover. The league also took a big loss when Taurasi chose to skip the 2015 season, prioritizing rest for her team based in Russia, which was paying her more than the Phoenix Mercury team that she’s been more known as playing for since graduating from the University of Connecticut.
The WNBA can’t stop players from wanting and needing to play overseas completely at this moment, however, working with those leagues to provide more professional overseas opportunities that work with the WNBA schedule and also raising salaries help make those decisions a lot easier when it comes to taking care of themselves.
Speaking of taking care of yourself, it should be assumed that women in any industry should be able to have extended maternity leaves where they are well-paid and secure of their positions. That wasn’t the case for WNBA athletes prior to this new CBA, but it is now.
Knowing that some women in the WNBA may be single parents as well, providing financial options outside of the court may be beneficial. This is a reason why the idea of increased marketing opportunities for these athletes is necessary tools to advancement for the league and allowing them to make even more lucrative marketing deals to create a brand that will generate income off the court is a critical aspect of the intersection of sports and business that the WNBA has long seemed on the outside of, looking in.
We also cannot overlook the idea of increased mental health/domestic violence resources as well as improved diversity opportunities for former players/affiliates within the professional league.
“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,” said WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert per a WNBA press release.
The NBA has done an excellent job in supporting the WNBA, and the WNBA has done a good job working with its players to create historic progress, but in all honesty, these basic rights should be automatic for the average basketball player.
The WNBA’s latest adjustments should have been spurred with the direction athletes are taking today to ensure their ticket of a “secured bag” for their families. Historically, women seem to get the late support when it comes to civil rights movements. From the women’s suffrage to abortion rights, women have to fight to get the rights that should have already been given to them. In the world of sports, we seem to find a similar pattern, especially when it comes to pay and the benefits that their participating sports offer.
One day, I would love to see women sports generating the same amount of income as men’s professional sports, on and off the court. The only way that this can be done, is through the consistent and full-throated support of the consumers and fanbases that spend their hard-earned money to support these leagues. The NBA and WNBA have done their parts. It is time for us to do ours.
Joshua M. Hicks is a Senior Writer for WARR Media