Nneka Ogwumike on Improved Benefits For Women in Basketball: “It Should Be Standard”
Two weeks into the new year, the WNBA and the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA), the current union for women in basketball, announced that they had reached a tentative collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The eight-year deal will, after ratification by the league’s Board of Governors, commence with the start of the 2020 season and run through 2027. It features elements concerning free agency, career development, a significant salary bump, and brand new maternity benefits that focus on more accessible ways to balance motherhood with the game.
Some highlights from this CBA consist of a 53-percent increase in total cash compensation – including base salary, marketing deals, additional performance bonuses, etc. – and top players, according to ESPN, will see their base salaries grow from $117,500 to $215,000, with maximum compensation exceeding $500,000. This triples the league’s previous max. And, for the first time, the average cash compensation for all players will surpass six figures with an average of nearly $130,000.
Also for the first time, players will receive full salary while on maternity leave – prior to the new CBA, they received as little as half – as well as a $5,000 annual childcare stipend and a two-bedroom apartment for them and their children. There are family planning benefits, too, including reimbursement of up to $60,00 for veteran players paying for adoption, surrogacy, egg freezing, or fertility treatment. View full details about this agreement on the WNBA website.
According to ESPN, this will be the fifth CBA in women’s basketball history. Skylar Diggins-Smith, a new mom and veteran point guard who’s going into the WNBA draft as a free agent, told POPSUGAR after a national team practice at the Nike NYC headquarters last week that, prior to this agreement, the vernacular in the CBA never seemed to protect women with children.
One bullet point from the new CBA announcement shared by the WNBA reads, “Workplace accommodations that provide a comfortable, safe and private place for nursing mothers.” For instance, Skylar noted, “We have a right to have a separate room to pump where no employees have access.” She recalled, “I was pumping in the locker room. I can’t store my breast milk with the Gatorades.” The automatic two-bedroom apartments for players with children should also seem like a no-brainer, she added.
“It’s groundbreaking, but it’s also not something that should be groundbreaking. It should be standard.”
Skylar said she was 22 years old when she first experienced the change in the league’s CBA, and “I didn’t know much about what we needed.” This time around, as a new wife and mother at 29, she was very vocal. “We had almost everybody step up to their seat at the table and say, ‘OK, this is the change that we want to see and we want to be.’ . . . But I’m just grateful for our leadership. I’m grateful for everybody using their voice and their platform.”
One of those leaders is president of the WNBPA Nneka Ogwumike, a Los Angeles Sparks forward. When speaking to POPSUGAR, she said that the agreement is historic but that it ultimately shouldn’t be. “It’s groundbreaking, but it’s also not something that should be groundbreaking. It should be standard,” Nneka said. She used the term “revolution” lightly, explaining, “it’s also kind of like ‘why haven’t we had these things?'”
When asked what part of the CBA Nneka felt most accomplished about, she named the salary and compensation increase, “but specifically though, the benefits for moms and planning moms was huge, seeing that much of what is in the CBA now didn’t exist before.” Lastly, she said, this new deal “should set the tone for other women in the workplace and other women in sports.”