A proposed contract between the WNBA and its players’ union could boost the maximum player salary to more than $500,000 per season. The eight-year deal, which has yet to be ratified by either side, will give more to players, but will also ask them to do more.

New contract to boost WNBA salaries and benefits
WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert is “making a big bet on women” with the league’s new contract proposal. (Image: Ethan Miller/Getty)

Cathy Engelbert was installed as WNBA Commissioner last July. She wasted no time strengthening her bond with players when the league picked up the tab for some playoff game charter flights. But she’s likely to make even more friends with the salaries and benefits outlined in the WNBA’s latest contract proposal, according to The New York Times.

Pending Contract Boosts Salary and Benefits

For starters, the maximum player salary would increase from $117,500 to $215,000, but that number represents less than half of what the league’s top players could make in a single season. Add in another $250,000 in league marketing agreements, plus bonuses for appearances and awards, and overall player compensation could top $500,000. Altogether, that means the top players could earn nearly 3x more money than they could previously.

In addition to better compensation, players would also receive paid maternity leave, childcare stipends, and reimbursements for costs associated with adoption and fertility treatments. Players would no longer have to share rooms on the road, although they will still travel on commercial, rather than charter flights.

The NBA currently offers a 50-50 revenue split with players. The current WNBA players’ cut is closer to 20 to 30 percent. If the WNBA is able to improve revenue through new broadcast deals and licensing agreements, players could see a bigger cut of the revenue pie by 2021.

Players, however, will have to make some sacrifices.

More Games and Mandatory Training Camp Attendance

The WNBA wants to increase the number of games per season from 34 to 36, but some games will become part of a Commissioner’s Cup series that will offer teams additional tournament prize money.

In addition, the league wants there to be no more late arrivals to preseason training camps. In the past, players often prioritized their international club affiliations over the WNBA, resulting in many training camp no-shows. For players, the rationale for skipping camp was simple; if the league wouldn’t increase pay, they would play where the money was. That excuse won’t fly if this new deal is ratified.

LeBron Cheers WNBA’s Next Star

The WNBA still has tough road ahead, even if it successfully negotiates this latest contract. Television ratings have improved, but that’s mostly due to its latest media contracts. Attendance, however, dropped to an average of just 6,535 fans per game in 2019. But the WNBA may have an ace (or duck) up its sleeve for 2020.

Sabrina Ionescu is expected to be the WNBA’s No. 1 draft pick in 2020, and will likely play for the New York Liberty. Having Ionescu, the NCAA’s triple-double record holder (men and women’s), play in a media center like New York is bound to make a difference. She’s already so popular that Nike sold out of her Oregon jersey in just one day.

Even LeBron James is an unabashed Ionescu fan. He loved the fact that Ionescu has so many triple-doubles under her belt that she didn’t even realize she had racked up number 22 when Oregon took down Arizona on Sunday.

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