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New WNBA CBA increases average salary to nearly $130K, maximum salary above $500K

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WNBA players were pushing for higher salaries, better travel accommodations and more attention.

It sounds like the players – who opted out of their Collective Bargaining Agreement – achieved many of their goals.

WNBA release:

The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA) announced today that they have reached an agreement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), pending ratification by the players and the league’s Board of Governors.

The new eight-year CBA, which commences with the 2020 season and runs through 2027, provides the foundation to chart a new course for women’s professional basketball. The 2020 CBA features significant investments by the league and its teams aimed directly at increasing player salary and compensation, improvements to the overall player experience, resources specifically designed with the professional female athlete in mind, as well as a commitment to implement an integrated marketing plan league-wide.

Foremost among the deal terms is a 53 percent increase in total cash compensation, consisting of base salary, additional performance bonuses, prize pools for newly created in-season competitions, and league and team marketing deals.  Under the new CBA, the league’s top players will be able to earn cash compensation in excess of $500,000, representing a more than tripling of the maximum compensation under the prior deal.  Other top players will have an opportunity to earn between $200,000 and $300,000.  And for the first time in WNBA history, the average cash compensation for players will exceed six figures, averaging nearly $130,000, resulting in an increase for all players from rookies to veterans.

Additional highlights include enhanced player experience with respect to travel and child care benefits, and expanded offseason career development opportunities.  The landmark agreement also features a more liberal free agency system, and a more robust and equitable revenue-sharing model based on league revenue growth.

“We approached these negotiations with a player-first agenda, and I am pleased that this agreement guarantees substantial increases in compensation and progressive benefits for the women of the WNBA,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert.  “I want to thank the players, led by WNBPA President Nneka Ogwumike and the WNBPA Executive Committee, as well as WNBPA Executive Director Terri Jackson, for their hard work, innovative thinking and professionalism throughout the process.  I also want to thank the league’s Labor Relations Committee and Board of Governors for their investment, commitment and leadership as we look forward to working together to make the WNBA a sustainable and thriving business for generations of women’s basketball players to come.”

“Cathy Engelbert, the first WNBA Commissioner, brought her perspective as a former women’s basketball student-athlete, her experience as a business professional and her passion for the game to these negotiations,” said WNBPA President Nneka Ogwumike.  “We found common ground in areas that confirmed the league’s and the 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.”

“With cautious optimism and trusting the league’s renewed commitment and investment, the players demonstrated a willingness to ‘lean in’ themselves and show an even greater commitment and investment in the W,” described WNBPA Executive Director Terri Jackson. “There are significant gains all across the board in this new agreement, and everything is in place for our players and the league to thrive.”

The following are the key elements in the new 2020 WNBA-WNBPA Collective Bargaining Agreement:

  • Additional cash compensation elements:

o Minimum of $1.6 million in off-season league and team marketing agreements, that both recognize top performance and highlight the diversity of the league, and would create up to $300,000 in additional annual cash compensation for select players.

o Minimum of $750,000 in prize money for special competitions beginning with the 2021 season.

o New 50-50 revenue sharing beginning with the 2021 season, based on the league achieving revenue growth targets from broadcast agreements, marketing partnerships and licensing deals.

o Increases in cash bonuses for performance awards (such as for WNBA MVP and Rookie of the Year), and newly created cash bonuses (such as for each player named to the WNBA All-Defensive First Team).

  • Quality of travel elements:

o Premium Economy class status (such as Comfort/Economy Plus) for all players for regular-season air travel.

o Individual hotel room accommodations for every player.

o A collaborative effort to address travel concerns through the Player Advisory Panel.

  • Motherhood and family planning elements:

o Players to receive full salary while on maternity leave.

o A new annual childcare stipend of $5,000.

o Two-bedroom apartments for players with children.

o Workplace accommodations that provide a comfortable, safe and private place for nursing mothers.

o New, progressive family planning benefits of up to a $60,000 reimbursement for veteran players for costs directly related to adoption, surrogacy, oocyte cryopreservation or fertility/infertility treatment.

  • Free agency elements

o Unrestricted free agency available to players one year earlier than under the prior agreement beginning with the free agency period leading up to the 2021 season. Specifically, players who complete the playing services called for in their contract and have five or more years of service will become unrestricted free agents (if they are not designated as a “Core” player).

o Reduction in the number of times a player can receive the “Core” designation – from four to three beginning with the 2020 season, dropping to two beginning with the 2022 season.

  • Career development and other quality of life elements:
  • The WNBA will work with its affiliated leagues, teams and sponsors to provide off-season job opportunities designed to prepare players for their post-playing careers and will advance diversity in coaching initiatives for veteran players interested in coaching careers.
  • Enhanced mental health benefits and resources.
  • An augmented and holistic domestic/intimate partner violence program that includes education and counseling.
  • A joint Nutrition Council committed to identifying resources and address proper nutrition to optimize athletic performance.
  • Access to experts in women’s health and representation on league policy committees.

The WNBA also announced today the formation of a first-of-its-kind collective – WNBA Changemakers – which brings together values-driven businesses who lead the way in the advancement of women through sports. This new platform is designed to directly support the WNBA in its transformation across marketing, branding, and player and fan experience. With a fresh approach to sports sponsorship, Changemakers are deeply invested in driving positive change for the WNBA, women’s sports, and women in society.

The WNBA, backed financially by the NBA, has significantly spread the reach of the NBA – despite WNBA players often facing relatively difficult conditions. Many play overseas during the offseason. Commercial travel between WNBA games can be grueling.

These changes should improve the WNBA product. We’ll see whether that changes attention and revenue. But it’s a big step.

Good for the WNBA players for fighting for better treatment. And good for the league for striking a deal without a work stoppage.

Kobe Bryant’s death a unique tragedy

Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson
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Magic Johnson – one of the NBA’s brightest stars – stood behind a podium, smiled and shook the world. Johnson had HIV and was retiring from the Lakers, he announced. Confusion, speculation and, most prominently, grief followed. Everyone thought he’d die. Charles Barkley said, “It’s kind of like somewhat of a death of a brother.” Larry Bird called it “probably the toughest day I’ve had since my father passed away, and I’ve been very depressed and sort of been out of it.” Pat Riley called for a moment of silence before a game.

More than 28 years later, Johnson mourned Kobe Bryant.

Bryant’s death yesterday was the tragedy everyone believed Johnson’s diagnosis to be. Sudden. Crushing. Unbelievable. All the same emotions came pouring out. Except this time there was no mistaking the finality.

Johnson has continued living, thriving, inspiring. He’s a renowned businessman, beloved celebrity and fantastic ambassador for basketball. It’s the type of retirement expected for Bryant, because why wouldn’t it be?

The NBA has grown accustomed to its titans aging gracefully. Unlike baseball, the NBA hasn’t existed long enough for multiple generations of old-timers to pass away. Unlike football, the NBA doesn’t subject its players to such traumatic physical tolls.

Just two MVPs in all of NBA history had died, Wilt Chamberlain (age 63 in 1999) and Moses Malone (age 60 in 2015), and those deaths felt far too soon.

Bryant was only 41.

Just four All-Stars died younger. Don Sunderlage was in a car crash at age 31 in 1961. Maurice Stokes suffered a head injury during a game, became paralyzed then – after teammate Jack Twyman cared for him for 12 years – died at age 36 in 1970. Pete Maravich had a heart issue while playing pickup basketball at age 40 in 1988. Reggie Lewis suffered a heart attack during what should have been the midst of his career at age 27 in 1993.

Lewis – like Len Bias (who died of a cocaine overdose at age 22 in 1986) and Drazen Petrovic (who died in a car crash at age 28 in 1993) – never got to fulfill their potentials. That creates its own kind of anguish.

There is no analogue to Bryant’s death.

Bryant’s accomplishments – one MVP, five championships, two NBA Finals MVPs, 11 All-NBA first teams, two All-NBA second teams, two All-NBA third teams and 18 All-Star appearances – place him among the very greatest of all-time greats. No player anywhere near that stature had ever died anywhere near this young.

Bryant could be charming and ruthless, sometimes simultaneously. His play and conduct earned him loyal fans and harsh critics. The never-ending Kobe debates seemed only to inflame the passion of his supporters.

Few adored him like fellow NBA players. They admired his skill and determination. He responded by mentoring many. It’s difficult to overstate just how cherished Bryant was in this league.

Few understand the cold realities of the NBA like Austin Rivers. He grew up with his father, Doc Rivers, frequently gone playing and coaching. As a result, they aren’t particularly close. Now an NBA player himself, Austin speaks of their distant relationship with far more acceptance than wistfulness. He’s too focused on competing to do much else.

Yesterday, Austin cried on the court:

Then, explained how little he cared about the Rockets losing a basketball game:

Others shed tears in arenas around the country. The NBA could have cancelled yesterday’s games. Playing while grieving proved difficult for many.

There was just no good way to handle the loss. Mere moments of silence felt insufficient.

The Spurs and Raptors began their game yesterday with shot-clock violations in honor of his No. 24. Other teams exchanged a shot-clock violation and eight-second violation in honor of his other number. Trae Young wore No. 8.

Other tributes popped up around the world. Bryant was a global icon.

He was also a loving father. As incredibly wide as this tragedy lands, it also cuts unimaginably deep. Bryant’s daughter, 13-year-old Gianna, also died in the helicopter crash.

Appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2018, Bryant just lit up when discussing her:

Bryant’s death is devastating – for those touched closely and, because of its unparalleled nature, even those not. Nobody was ready for this.

It’s a punch in the gut. The basketball world – which expanded far larger than imaginable in 1991, when Johnson made his announcement, because of people like Bryant – remains in a daze.

In wake of Kobe Bryant’s death, Kendrick Perkins seeks forgiveness from Kevin Durant

Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Kendrick Perkins
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Kevin Durant once called Kendrick Perkins his favorite teammate of all-time.

A couple weeks ago, they were beefing on Twitter,exchanging barbs that didn’t look as friendly as previously.

Kobe Bryant’s tragic death has Perkins reflecting.

Perkins:

Good for Perkins. Amid all the sorrow, Bryant’s death creates an opportunity for people to re-assess their priorities. Grudges almost always aren’t worth it.

Nick Kyrgios warms up for Australian Open in Kobe Bryant jersey (video)

Nick Kyrgios in Kobe Bryant jersey and Rafael Nadal
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Kobe Bryant was a great basketball player. His sport-specific skills – shooting, dribbling, positioning – were incredible.

But his competitiveness and work ethic transcended basketball. Those traits earned him admirers far and wide.

Tennis star Nick Kyrgios wore a Bryant jersey to warm up for the Australian Open:

CJ Fogler:

After his fourth-round loss to Rafael Nadal, Kyrgios – wearing a different Kobe jersey – shared his perspective on Bryant:

Kyrgios:

Basketball is practically my life, and I watch it every day, and I’ve been following it for as long as I can remember.

If anything, it motivated me. If you look at the things he stood for and what he wanted to be remembered by, I felt like, if anything, it helped me tonight.

I’m a Celtics fan, and so when I saw Kobe do what he does and break the hearts of so many Celtics fans, it was tough to see. But I don’t think they make them like him anymore. He was different. The way he trained, the way he did things, the way he played was special. It’s just sad.

Reports: Kobe Bryant’s helicopter was in holding pattern, advised of flying too low

Kobe Bryant helicopter crash site
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Kobe Bryant’s shocking death has left millions trying to cope.

For some, questions turn to the technical: How? How did Bryant’s helicopter crash?

RadarOnline.com:

“Hold outside Burbank, I have an aircraft,” the recording revealed the tower employee advising Bryant’s helicopter during the communication.

“He’s been holding for about 15 minutes,” a flight tower employee said about Bryant’s helicopter around 9:30 a.m.

Emma Parry and Chris Spargo of The U.S. Sun:

The pilot, Ara Zobayan, was told he was flying too close to the ground.

Per audio from before the crash, Zobayan said: “OK, we’ll continue holding.”

RadarOnline.com:

As the flight towers try to assist in the helicopter landing, they are cautioned about the “overcast” weather and their low flight level, meaning they were dangerously close to the ground.

“You’re still too low level for flight following at this time,” the flight toward warned the pilot on the audio.

Bryant’s helicopter was reportedly traveling north along the 118 freeway, turned west and followed the 101 freeway. After hitting heavy fog around 9:40 a.m., the helicopter turned south and made a steep climb from 1200 feet to 2000 feet.

Moments later they reportedly flew into the mountain at 1700 feet and the vehicle was traveling at 161 knots.

There’s still more to learn, including whether the helicopter had mechanical issues. Perhaps, we’ll never get that answer. If we do, it won’t change anything.

Still, it feels natural to search for greater understanding of this inexplicable tragedy.