Highlander Hot Take: New WNBA labor deal will bring the league more popularity

Courtesy of Lorie Shaull, Flickr

The WNBA has a widespread reputation for its lack of popularity in comparison to the NBA. The league is commonly criticized as “boring,” as critics declare that women are not able to perform the same exciting dunks that their male counterparts so often do.

However, the WNBA offers so much more than just dunking, and a recently drafted agreement stands to put players in a position to propel the popularity of the league. As of Tuesday, Jan. 14, the WNBA and its players union have established a collective bargaining agreement that will bring significant pay increases, as well as family and medical benefits to the league’s players.

With a rising frequency of buzzer-beating shots, engaging franchise players and a more equal distribution of talent than the NBA, the WNBA is a hidden gem. Unfortunately, its positive attributes are mainly overshadowed in the media by coverage of the pay disparity between its athletes and those of the NBA. Issues facing WNBA players were generally known but brought to the forefront of conversation in August 2018. The Las Vegas Aces were scheduled to play the Washington Mystics, but the teams were forced to cancel the game hours before tip off after the Aces’ commercial flight was cancelled. WNBA players waited for six hours in a Dallas airport and tweeted about the travel nightmare as some were photographed sleeping in the airport.

Over two years later, the new collective bargaining agreement will remedy some of the issues that the Las Vegas Aces’ travel fiasco and countless other incidents have exposed over the years. Initial thoughts surrounding the Aces incident were centered around the fact that NBA players charter private flights to all of their games and would never be caught sleeping in an airport. Although the WNBA had no control over the Aces’ flight being cancelled, they could have easily coordinated other sleeping arrangements for them. The comparison of the two highlighted an embarrassing neglect of WNBA players that arguably contributes to the league’s lack of popularity: WNBA players are not taken seriously enough.

According to CBS Sports, changes proposed in the new collective bargaining act include a ”31% increase to the salary cap,” increasing it to $1.3 million and an increased maximum salary of $215,000 compared to $117,500 which will bring up the average league salary to $130,000. Players could also earn up to $250,000 in league marketing agreements and double that for “some top players.” Players will also receive improved mental health benefits, paid maternity leave with full salary, child care stipends, improved housing options for players and separate hotel rooms for players as opposed to shared one during travel. 

Now, WNBA players will be able to live a lifestyle that will allow for discussion to move away from league mistreatment, and more toward the talent on the court. WNBA players will no longer have to play overseas during the offseason, hide pregnancies or tweet through traveling nightmares. The new deal makes it clear that the league is finally investing in its players. It was broadly applauded as a landmark for the WNBA, and is “already paying off” as Connecticut Sun point guard Layshia Clarendon told the Washington Post. Athletes that feel taken care of and well represented can focus on their role in the game and be entertaining while doing so. This new collective bargaining agreement will also improve the public perception of the WNBA.