NEW YORK — The WNBA and its union announced a tentative eight-year 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 50-50 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.