It was just last October, when Women’s National Basketball Association star of the Dallas Wings team, Skylar Diggins-Smith revealed that she played an entire 5-month season while pregnant but was called a “quitter” for taking two months off to cope with postpartum depression after giving birth to her son.
And it was last year that we all took notice on how the national champs, the Washington Mystics didn’t have time for an immediate parade because so many of them had to hurry off to play overseas to support their families and compensate for the WNBA’s low salaries.
This week, after months of negotiation, the WNBA announced its new collective bargaining agreement that offers major improvements for the players, including comprehensive family planning support that allows for full paid maternity leave (it was half on the previous CBA), reimbursement for fertility support and adoption fees, a $5,000 childcare stipend, two bedroom apartments for players with kids, and mental health services tailored to working moms.
“We’ve always been a progressive league. We’ve always kind of been in the forefront of the social impact and reaching out to the community,” Women’s National Basketball Players Association’s (WNBPA) President and LA Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike said on a press call last Monday. “But we really hope that we can set a precedent for women in the workplace, women in sports. We’re really happy to be able to be in front of that.”
Given the high number of LBTQ players in the league and a lot of players commit their most fertile years of lift to playing a sport, it was important that the benefits also include reimbursement up to $60,000 for veteran players for costs directly related to adoption, surrogacy, and egg freezing or fertility treatment.
InStyle summarized the groundbreaking aspect of the new CBA well:
Under their previous contract, players were only guaranteed half their salary while on maternity leave. Considering their pay was already paltry — according to reporting by Matt Ellentuck of SBNation, the minimum salary for players with up to two years of experience was $41,965 in 2019, while the league maximum was $117,500 — this would have been a huge blow.
WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said that some teams “stepped up” and paid players their full salary during leave, “but it wasn’t contractual or required”…
…WNBA All-Star and vertan Sparks guard Candace Parker shared her experience as a mother this week on NBA TV. Parker had her now-10-year-old daughter on May 13 and was back on the court July 5, and then headed out on an East Coast trip.
Her daughter was six weeks old.
“I had to take my mom with me because I nursed the first 15 months, but it was out of pocket, I had to pay for my own hotel room,” Parker says. But with this new CBA and the addition of paid leave, “those things are slowly getting better for mothers.”
Kudos to those who worked hard to secure these wins!