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WNBA, union reach labor deal hiking average salary, offering maternity leave

The WNBA and its player’s union reached a tentative labor deal Tuesday that would last for eight years and raise the average yearly salary for players to six figures for the first time in the league’s history.

The agreed-upon collective bargaining agreement (CBA) will pay players an average of $130,000 and guarantees them fully-paid maternity leave, the Associated Press reports. Top players will now be able to make over $500,000.

In a phone interview with the AP, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert called the deal “historic.”

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Also included in the CBA is 50/50 revenue sharing between the owners and the players that will start in 2021. The league salary cap will jump 31 percent to $1.3 million for this coming season.

“I was adamant on the 50-50 target,” Engelbert said. “The league and players work together to market this league so we can share revenue with the players. We have to hit some targets.”

WNBA players’ union president and former league MVP Nneka Ogwumike called the agreement a “collaborative effort.”

Ogwumike also cited the salary increase will act as an incentive to keep the league’s best players stateside during the off-season and not playing overseas.

Many WNBA players play overseas during the WNBA’s offseason, where they often can get paid more money than what they make playing in the WNBA. However, the decision to play overseas can have adverse effects on both the players and the league.

Former league MVP Breanna Stewart tore her Achilles tendon overseas last year, causing her to miss the entire WNBA season. 

In 2015, the league’s all-time leading scorer Diana Taurasi sat out the entire WNBA season because the Russian team she was playing for – UMMC Ekaterinburg – was paying her over $1 million and wanted her to rest.

“We’re hoping to lift, not just women in sports and women in basketball, but women in society,” Engelbert said.

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