Women’s National Basketball Association officials reached a deal on Tuesday with the Women’s National Basketball Players’ Association regarding higher salaries, improvements to player experiences and an “integrated marketing plan.”
“We approached these negotiations with a player-first agenda, and I am pleased with that. This agreement guarantees substantial increases in compensation and progressive benefits for the players in the WNBA,” commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a press release.
The most significant change accompanying the new deal is a 53% overall increase in pay for WNBA athletes. That increase will come in the form of a raised base-salary, new player/league marketing deals and increased bonuses and prize-pools for new in-season competitions.
Under the new agreement, known as a Collective Bargaining Agreement, top women’s players will be able to earn over $500,000 per year. This number would be more than triple the top pay of players under the old deal. Additionally, the average salary for a WNBA player will be more than $100,000 for the first time in the history of the league.
Players will also be able to earn cash bonuses for performance awards, such as Rookie of the Year.
The change has come after years of demand for better pay and working conditions for female athletes, who many have considered to be historically underpaid and mistreated.
Jaden LaRue, a freshman in the Polytechnic Institute, voiced her opinions on the matter.
“Women have been complaining about it,” LaRue said. “There’s not much equality in athletics, so (the WNBA) probably listened to them for once. But they should do it more.”
LaRue feels the pay raises should have come a long time ago, but says the deal is “better late than never.”
Maria Couvreur, president of Purdue’s Paint Crew, echoed that sentiment.
“I thought it was great news,” Couvreur said. “I think it’s great for women across the world. I’m not sure why it hadn’t happened earlier.”
Much debate on the topic of female athletes and salaries is brought back to a comparison to the pay of NBA athletes.
David Ozor, a junior in the College of Engineering, said that an athlete’s pay should “correspond to how much your sport brings (in) income.” Ozor said that pay for female athletes should not be entirely equal to the pay for male athletes, but instead should be based on how much revenue their respective league makes. Even with this model, disproportionate pay persists.
Based on a 2017 study from Forbes, the NBA pays its players around 50% of its total revenue, but the WNBA only gives its players 25%. WNBA players are hoping this new deal can narrow and eventually close that gap.
Much of the discrepancy in revenue for the NBA versus the WNBA can be attributed to marketing and fan support, something that the Paint Crew recognizes and has plans for in the future.
“With Paint Crew, (there’s) a lot of people waiting hours for the men’s basketball team when they play. However, when the women’s basketball team plays, not that many people show up and they show up right at the tip-off,” Couvreur said. “For Paint Crew, we’re going to try to market women’s basketball more, just to show people that women’s basketball should get the same support as men’s.”
Even with this increase in pay, women’s salaries will not come close to those of their contemporaries in places like China, Russia or Turkey. There, the top women’s players make over $1 million.
“I think it is enough for right now,” Couvreur said. “I think that it definitely needs to get bigger in the future, but I think that the WNBA players can see that it is improving.”
In addition to pay, significant benefits are being given to mothers in the league. WNBA players who are mothers will be given fully-paid maternity leave, and a 2-bedroom apartment and a $5,000 annual child care stipend to mothers in the league.
“I feel like they deserve it,” LaRue said. “I know paid maternity isn’t really a big thing here in America, so that’s a good step.”
The deal also included stipulations for travel. Players will be given Premium Economy class on flights, and will have the right to individual hotel accommodations.