The WNBA’s progress

Michael Caruso, Senior Writer

The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) has come an unbelievably long way since its start in 1996. For instance, the organization recently struck an eight-year collective bargaining deal that will increase the average player’s salary to $130,000, as well as guaranteed full-pay maternity leave and better traveling conditions. To put this in perspective, the league’s highest-paid players, who previously made about $117,500, will now make $215,000.

We found common ground in areas that confirmed the league’s and players’ intentions to not only make meaningful improvements in working conditions and overall professional experience but also to improve the business with strategic planning and intentional marketing that will keep the WNBA front and center year-round,” WNBA President Nneka Ogwumike said.

By paying its players more, the WNBA hopes to increase competitiveness and spur market funding in order to help the league gain fame. Individuals such as Cathy Engelbert, the commissioner of the WNBA, also helped execute this deal, in part to have stars such as Candace Parker gain more notoriety in the global basketball community. Engelbert — who previously worked at Deloitte for 33 years and was their first female CEO — took this job over a corporate finance opportunity due to her background in sports from being a collegiate basketball player and because of her desire to turn the WNBA into a larger money-making business.

“We’re going to change the way people look at women’s sports, especially women’s team sports, since less than 4 percent of all media covers women’s sports and less than one percent of all corporate sponsorship dollars globally go to women’s sports,” Engelbert said. “So we’ve got to change those numbers and move those percentages up.”

However, according to Engelbert, next on the agenda for the WNBA is a greater increase in their marketing totals. In the new collective bargaining agreement, there is now substantial money to be funded for marketing agreements for teams and players. It is evident that the WNBA does not have the same economic model for media and sponsorships that the NBA — or really any men’s league — has. To start, Engelbert is looking to pick some of the top players in the league who are able to appeal to the fanbase and potentially bring in new fans. The ultimate goal is to have all 144 players under future market agreements.

It is clear that the WNBA is in great hands in terms of leadership and management. Although it would be almost impossible to match NBA revenue, the organization’s vision is to get the percentages to be the same in terms of what part of the revenue goes towards paying the athletes. With the debate on salary differences between female and male athletes, the WNBA is absolutely taking a step in the right direction to bridge that gap.

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