Black History Month: Black women in the WNBA led the way to a new CBA.

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( The most well-known professional women’s sports team league in North America is the Women’s National Basketball Association. The WNBA has been around since 1997 and has grown considerably in talent, depth, and recognizable personalities since its inception. The WNBA has been a beneficary of the increased talent, athleticism, and abilities of women’s college basketball players over the last decade. There are plenty of talented athletes in the WNBA and now those athletes will be compensated better with the new collective bargaining agreement that was agreed to earlier this year by the WNBA and the players’ union. The new collective bargaining agreement, or CBA, is considered groundbreaking and a major positive for the players. It is also worthy of mentioning that the leadership of the players’ union was comprised primarily of black women who led the way for this historic CBA for the WNBA.

Terri Jackson is the executive director of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association and was a vital part of the new CBA. Her prior experiences as the NCAA’s Director of Law, Policy and Governance and as Legal Counsel for Athletics for the University of the District of Columbia prepared her for the negotiations with WNBA owners and WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert. Among the biggest positives for WNBA players as part of the new CBA are the increases in player salaries, improved travel accomodations and player benefits. Jackson mentioned, “Getting the travel improved, getting the improvements for mothers, getting to where we can say a top player in this league could have her salary nearly double –I think those are really good things.”

Many of the most recognizable WNBA players are black and have been vocal for years about ways they wanted to see the WNBA improve. Four-time All-Star Skylar Diggins-Smith, who missed the 2019 WNBA season after giving birth, has spoken out about the conditions for working mothers who are WNBA players and Liz Cambage, one of the most well-known WNBA players, has been public about how the salaries of WNBA players needed to improve. The new CBA addresses some of those issues as now “players will receive full salary while on maternity leave, an annual child care stipend of $5,000, and guarantee of two-bedroom apartments for players with children” and the “annual base pay for league’s highest-paid player jumps from $117,500 to $215,000”.

WNBPA executive committee president Nneka Ogwumike is one of the most accomplished current players in the WNBA and a former WNBA Most Valuable Player and WNBA Champion. Her brillance as a former Stanford student and leader on and off the basketball court have aided her in her executive position. Due to her lived experience as a player, Ogwumike knew the importance of negotiating improvements on behalf of WNBA players in many areas including hotel accomodations and flights. Under the new CBA, WNBA players will continue to fly commercial, with seats upgraded from coach to economy-class. All players will also have individual hotel rooms instead of sharing rooms.

Regarding those changes Ogwumike said, “Those things do impact performance. You have more comfort on flights, and with your own room you’re not worried about waking your teammate or interfering with their sleep patterns.” There are many black women leading various roles and positions throughout America and the black women who led the WNBA’s player union have made a historic impact for the betterment of the talent in its league with the new collective bargaining agreement.

Staff Writer; Mark Hines