After the 2019 season, the WNBA announced a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the players association and the league officials to regulate things such as salary, working conditions and protection for players.
This was groundbreaking for not only the WNBA, but for women’s sports everywhere.
A major factor of the CBA was the announcement of increased wages for players. Because many players did not make enough money playing on WNBA teams to support themselves and their families, they had to play in leagues overseas during the WNBA off-season. This meant that many players were stuck playing year round just to supplement their income and be able to make a career out of playing basketball professionally.
The likelihood of players getting injured and having to miss part or sometimes all of the WNBA season increased greatly when they had to play during the off-season, a time that is commonly used for rest and training to be ready for the next season.
This is something that the league obviously wants to stop from happening. However, it is still a reality that many players will have to live with.
While the WNBA Is making many great steps to grow women’s basketball, players are still faced with the fact that it is a young and growing league. With twelve teams across the United States and with every team only being allowed a maximum of twelve players, the league is both hard to get into and hard to stay in.
There are only 144 total roster spots available within the league. That means that every year when new talent comes in, they have to find a way for the older talent to leave for there to be room on the rosters.
Expansion to include more teams within the league could solve many of these problems, however expansion is not something that is easy to do.
Many things have to factor into the decision to expand and at this moment, the WNBA has no plans for it, though that does not mean it won’t be possible in the future. The league has shown in the past that it can support expansion teams and sustain the league for as long as it has, so seeing expansion in the future is very likely.
The sacrifices that many players have to make to play in the WNBA is a great barrier for the league, though it is one the newly formed CBA is trying to combat.
A decision faced by many female professional athletes is to choose between starting a family or continuing their professional sporting career. For many of the top athletes, this is not a problem because they are able to supplement their income through things like sponsorships and national team pay while on leave.
However, that is not possible for many female athletes. Choosing to have a child and putting their career on halt could mean the end of their sporting career.
The WNBA is trying to change this. In what is perhaps the biggest change in the CBA, the league will now give players many maternity benefits to make sure that they don’t have to choose professional basketball over starting a family. Some of these benefits include players being awarded their full salaries while on maternity leave and a childcare stipend being paid to the players that do have children.
As the longest running professional women’s sports league, the WNBA has been groundbreaking in many different ways and their new CBA only furthers that. The WNBA has frequently been the most visible of women’s professional sports leagues because the NBA has put in the work to support them that men’s leagues for other sports are not willing to do.
Another thing that the new CBA shows is that women’s professional sports are a growing industry. For a women’s sport to gain as much support as basketball has not only benefits the WNBA, but every women’s professional sports league in North America and throughout the world.
This newly formed CBA is capable of serving as a framework for the other professional women’s sports league worldwide to show them the things that their own leagues should be striving to provide for them.
However, the WNBA having a groundbreaking contract does not mean that it is still not disadvantaged in many ways.
Women’s professional sports leagues everywhere do not have access to the same resources that are seen as given for men’s sports leagues.
One thing that has helped men’s sports grow is how they televise of games nationally. Television networks are not willing to televise women’s sports leagues despite the fact that they have shown to be successful in whatever streaming format they air on.
For newly formed men’s sports leagues, however, they are not forced to prove themselves before being given a nationally televised platform. Many new leagues are trying to gain footing in North America and these networks are willing to give them a platform despite having no indication that they will have an audience or be able to sustain themselves.
The attitude of a lot of male sports fans is the same.
Many are not willing to put in the effort to support women’s sports, yet they will go out of their way to consume content from numerous men’s sports leagues worldwide.
The WNBA is doing something that many would’ve never thought possible for a professional women’s sports league. Many still think that they are only seconds away from collapsing, despite copious amounts of evidence to show their success.
The WNBA is serving as a model for what a professional women’s sports league can look like. They’re doing everything they can to show the next generation of girls that growing up to be a professional athlete is something they can actually do.
Being able to allow women and girls the chance to see themselves represented within professional sports is a valuable thing and something that should be supported no matter what.