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Details on Why WNBA Players Blindly Opted Out of Their Collective Bargaining Agreement

WNBA players don’t feel they are fairly compensated in comparison to their NBA counterparts and they have not been shy about expressing their disappointment.

Some of the league’s biggest names, including Skylar Diggins-Smith and Brittany Griner, spoke out over the summer with Diggins-Smith taking a jab at Dallas Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes. While it was a little unfair to drag Barnes into it, Diggins-Smith’s frustrations are understandable. Most WNBA players choose to play overseas during the offseason where they can reportedly earn 10 to 15 times the WNBA maximum. The maximum for veterans was just $115,000 last year and only grows by $2,000 a year. The 2018 No 1 draft pick A’ja Wilson earned less than half that; right under $53,000.

On Thursday, it was announced that the WNBA’s Players Association had opted out of its current Collective Bargaining Agreement. Although the current CBA doesn’t expire until after the 2019 season, the players had until November 1 to exercise their option.

In an essay written on The Players Tribune, WNBA Players Association president Nneka Ogwumike wrote the following:

“We’re opting out because women’s basketball’s potential is infinite. We’re opting out because there’s still a lot more work to be done. And we’re betting on ourselves to do it.”

This was the WNBA’s response:

“We were informed today that the Women’s National Basketball Players Association has opted out of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement following the 2019 season. The league and its teams are committed to an open and good-faith negotiation that is rooted in the financial realities of our business. We are getting to work immediately and are confident such a process can lead to a fair deal for all involved.”

The impact of the possible negotiations will not take effect until the 2020 season and the players are hoping that increased earnings are a part of them. While it is unreasonable to pay WNBA players a dollar amount equal to NBA players, the ladies would like a larger portion of the league’s revenue. NBA players get roughly 50 percent of league revenue while the women reportedly get closer to 20 percent. The WNBA rakes in less than one percent of the NBA’s $9 billion in revenue. Ogwumike told Bleacher Report that the lack in revenue is partially due to a lack of investment.

“What we’re discussing and fighting for is a lot more intricate than simply pay us more. It’s a lot deeper than that. It’s infrastructural. Why is this so hard for people to understand? It’s kind of business 101. You’re not going to make money off a product that you don’t invest in. We are the product. The W is the product. And the investment is not there.”

In addition to more lucrative contracts, the players also want improved player and team marketing, a better schedule, and improved travel accommodations. Every two years, the season is cut short by two weeks to accommodate FiBA and the Olympics. Additionally, the perils of domestic flights has caused WNBA teams to forfeit games due to delays while the NBA avoids the issue because they fly charter.

If more favorable conditions are not negotiated, the WNBA could soon self-implode if players elect to maximize their lifetime earnings by solely playing overseas. Making things more difficult is the fact that the league is operating without a president after Lisa Borders stepped down from the position in October. NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum is at the helm in the interim.

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