WNBA players opt out of Collective Bargaining Agreement with league

Rob Carr/Getty Images
9 Comments

WNBA players have been pushing for higher salaries.

This is their chance.

Women’s National Basketball Players Association:

WNBA players should negotiate for as much money and as good of work conditions as they can get. As they take up this fight, you’ll likely hear two numbers:

  • NBA players receive about 51% of league revenue.
  • WNBA players receive about 20% of league revenue.

It’s easy to say WNBA players should get a similar share of their as pie as NBA players get of theirs, but the situation is far more complex – especially from the outside – for two major reasons:

1. That 20% is merely an estimate by David Berri of Forbes. His calculations count each fan in attendance as having paid the WNBA’s self-reported average ticket price, but that seems to underrate the number of free and discounted tickets WNBA teams provide. Berri also doesn’t have access to info about numerous WNBA revenue streams. That 20% might be higher than reality. It might be lower than reality. The WNBA just keeps too much data private to know.

2. In some respects, real costs for operating a WNBA team are probably similar to running a NBA team. Does it take vastly different amounts to staff and heat/cool the arena in Atlanta for a Dream game vs. a Hawks game? Probably not. Yet even if the cost is identical, it would be a vastly different percentage of revenue in each league. So, not everything can be scaled by percentage.

But there are major differences between costs in the NBA and WNBA – particularly with travel. WNBA teams generally fly commercial while NBA teams fly private. WNBA players often play overseas during the WNBA offseason.

Perhaps, with better work conditions and the wages to justify taking a break during the offseason, WNBA players would produce a better product that generates more revenue. That could help the league grow long-term.

I suspect that argument will gain more traction than attempts to compare WNBA players to NBA players.