February 16, 2023 

Locked On Women’s Basketball: The WNBA’s CBA and crunch on the middle class explained

Howard and Isabel discuss her new story on how prioritization creates challenges for players

On this episode of the Locked on Women’s Basketball podcast, Howard Megdal is joined by The Next’s Isabel Rodrigues, who wrote a vital, deeply-reported piece on the impact of the current WNBA CBA on the league’s middle class. What prioritization does, why it matters, and how the league moves forward from here are all addressed. The ramifications will define what women’s pro basketball is here and around the world for many years to come.

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Isabel set the stage by explaining why the league values prioritization:

“So there are a lot of coaches who have reflected on like how kind of rough that those first couple of weeks can be both building team chemistry and team dynamics, especially when a lot of those players, those more experienced players are your veteran leaders, they’re your bench players, they’re coming off the bench and supporting those, like younger players are coming into the league. And so the WNBA wants those players to come back to the WNBA on time. But why are they even away from the WNBA in the first place? It’s because they don’t make enough money for it to be a priority. And so a lot of times those players are coming from overseas leagues that overlap. And so this is that rule is really, really getting at the, at the heart of all this.”

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Here at The Next, in addition to the 24/7/365 written content our staff provides, we also host the daily Locked On Women’s Basketball podcast. Join us Monday through Saturday each week as we discuss all things WNBA, collegiate basketball, basketball history and much more. Listen wherever you find podcasts or watch on YouTube.

Then, Isabel dove into some of the particular concerns she heard from players in her conversations ranging from salary caps to emotional health:

“When the salary cap itself does not increase alongside these increasing max salaries and minimum salaries, all of a sudden, you have a situation where in order to pay your max players more, you’re sacrificing the bulk of your roster. In terms of these middle-tier players who are making the vet minimums. A lot of times, end up getting replaced by rookie players, because their salaries are just that much less that it ends up fitting into the roster.

And then all of a sudden, you have this influx of players who either started on one team, and then get cut or waived early on in the season, and just bounce around on these hardship contracts, where they’re making like thousands of dollars singular, to play a couple of games here and there, and then they expire, and maybe they get picked up somewhere else, maybe they don’t. And it’s like the most uncertain place that you can be both from a financial standpoint because you don’t know how much you’re actually going to make until you finish the end of your contract. From a healthcare standpoint, because as soon as you’re waved you’re cut, that’s gone as well. And then also, just in terms of an emotional standpoint, a housing standpoint, being close to your family, like all of these different things compound when you’re in this situation of having to move from place to place.”

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Written by The Next

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