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WNBA Community Sounds off-on Ex-Athletes Possibly Investing in WNBA

 

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On November 1st of 2018, the WNBA players decided to opt-out of their collective bargaining agreement. By choosing to opt-out of their deal at the time cut the arrangement short by two years. The labor agreement was scheduled to room from March 5, 2014, to October 2021 or until the playoffs have been completed.

Since the WNBA Players Union terminated the deal, it gives both the players and the league the ability to negotiate a new contract that would go into effect during the 2020 WNBA season and the 2020 Olympics.

The WNBA has seen significant growth in many different areas since the CBA was signed in 2014. Television rates increased 35 percent over 2017 to 231,000 according to ESPN MediaZone. The league also started live-streaming their games on platforms such as Twitter and also collaborated with one-day daily fantasy sites. They also appeared in NBA live 18, and NBA 2K20.

But, according to the league, it hasn’t translated into team owners turning a profit. According to the WNBA, it has lost a numerous amount of money over the last 22 years, including $12 million in 2017.

“On average (we’ve lost) over $10 million every year we’ve operated,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told The Associated Press back in October.

The league’s top veterans salary is  $117,500, while the rookie minimum is $41,965 per ESPN.

Hall of Famer Lisa Leslie recently spoke about how it would be great to see the WNBA players make between $300,000 to $500,000. In the States, in comparison to what they are making overseas.

“It would be awesome to get the women to $300,000 to $500,000 would be ideal, I think. Some of the players depending on how long they pay overseas can make six figures, but that is a lot more time invested. The WNBA season is a shorter amount of time realistically with the length of the season. There is only so much that they can make during the season, but it would be great to continue to get those numbers up.

Equal to what a player would make spending six months overseas. I made anywhere from $700,000 up to million, and I know everyone’s names can’t look like that, but it would be great to see these women get up around that. It would nice to see the 115,000 that the top players in the league get doubled,” said Leslie.

Another issue has been the travel and players’ fatigue in 2018 were brought to the forefront when the season was condensed into 13 weeks due to the FIBA Women’s World Cup. The World Cup also caused the 2018 season to end three weeks earlier than in 2017. The Las Vegas Aces would have to forfeit a game against the Washington Mystics. After experiencing a 24-hour trip and did arrive in D.C. until two hours before tip-off.

Players have talked about the possibility of charter planes, but the league states it would be too expensive. Dallas Wings guard Skylar Diggins-Smith shared her frustration before All-Star Weekend in 2018.

Before the 2019-20 news broke that the 2018 WNBA regular season and Finals MVP Breanna Stewart would be out for the season. After suffering an Achilles overseas in the EuroLeague Final Four Championship Game loss to UMMC Ekaterinburg.

Though the news was devastating for the WNBA and its fans, but also shed light on the WNBA business model. In April, Chicago Sky forward Cheyenne Parker shared with the Chicago Sun-Times, that she hoped the WNBA leaders understood they need to invest more into its players.

‘‘I don’t know if it’ll be a wakeup call, unfortunately,’’ Parker told the Sun-Times. ‘‘I’m hoping that it opens eyes and wakes up some people’s mindsets on that, and maybe we’ll see a change sooner. But I doubt it.’’

Back in July, future Hall of Famer Diana Taurasi spoke with ESPN W about the pay disparity in the WNBA.

It’s just so sad to me. You know, 15 years in, it’s just such a sad thing to talk about. We had to go to a communist country to get paid like capitalists, which is so backward to everything that was in the history books in sixth grade. And even then, even within our pay scale, it doesn’t make sense. On a team, you could have seven players making the same amount of money. That doesn’t make sense to me.

What could make sense is former athletes such as Matt Hasselbeck, Donovan McNabb, and Kobe Bryant investing into the league?

Kobe has not said anything about possibly of becoming a WNBA owner, but Hasselbeck said he would like to have an ownership stake in all Seattle professional franchises.

“Hundred percent! I would be interested in purchasing a piece of the Sonics, Sounders, Seahawks, The Mariners, the NHL team that is coming to Seattle, and don’t forget the Storm,“ Hasselbeck told me.

According to Spotrac.com, Hasselbeck earned over $88 million during his NFL career. While McNabb talked about possibly partnering Kobe and bring an expansion team to Philadephia.

That would be something to explore. Kobe and I are highly competitive entrepreneurs, and we both are willing to lend a helping hand. He is definitely supportive of what his daughter is doing in basketball and is even coaching her team. I coach as well with our organization for our girls’ team and help coach the older team. I would like to see all the girls, including, my daughters, Gigi and Alexis achieve their dreams. If there are any opportunities where we could possibly own a team in the future, we would definitely explore it, McNabb told me.

Throughout the 2019-20 WNBA season, current and former players responded to McNabb and Hasselbeck possibly showing interest investing into their league. Former six-time All-Star Brittney Griner believes they could bringing more eyes and more resources for the WNBA.

“Kobe is doing so much for our league and Donovan Mcnabb if they were to step in and help by becoming owners. I think it would help us so much because they have so much of a following and can bring more support and resources,” said Brittney Griner.

Former Rookie of the Year A’Ja Wilson thinks it would be great because it would help grow women’s basketball.

“That’s a great thing to hear. If anyone wants to invest in women’s basketball that’s a great thing and I’m all for it. When you are invested in your athletes and treat them, stars and elite people. You play well because you feel good, so when I hear people want to invest in the women’s game, I love it because that means growth said,” A’ja Wilson.

Former Finals MVP Candace Parker shared that many NBA players have expressed interest and Hall of Famer Grant Hill being one of them.

“I think it is huge and there have been several NBA players that expressed interest. I know Grant Hill was one of them a while ago. So, I think it is great anytime you have expansion and grow our game its a positive for sure,” said Candace Parker.

Former league MVP Elena Delle Donne thought it was a great idea and it could help increase fan interaction and boost ticket sales.

“It would be great! It is always great to have players be involved; they know how to increase fan engagement and sale tickets. So, I’m all for it,” Former WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne told me last month.

Before the Seattle Storm secured the 6th seed against the Dallas Wings this past weekend, Jewell Loyd and Alysha Clark also weighed in on the possibility of both Hasselbeck and McNabb investing into the WNBA in the future.

“Yeah, I think any investment into the league helps in general. I mean this league is growing there a lot more awareness about it and anyone that wants to help build the legacy of the WNBA. We would be lucky to have them,” Jewell Loyd said.

“That’s awesome that’s great that you asked someone of their caliber. Investing in women’s sports is huge right now. The fact they are willing to take action and not just speak is awesome,” said Alysha Clark.

Union President Nneka Ogwumike and rep Carolyn Swords both talked about things will not change overnight, but their stance to be taken seriously.

“Any investment is good if people are talking about its great, but we have a lot of people talking about it and we want to see more action of course. We know it can’t happen overnight to know those thoughts are being taken seriously is great,” said Sparks forward and union president Nneka Ogwumike.

“I think it is awesome when other athletes want to get involved. I think you have seen it through the purchase of the Aces and the new owner in New York. The fact that the owner is really invested is a positive for the players, and it allows us to focus on what is going on the court. We know there are a lot of athletes coming to the games already. If people want to start supporting us financially and owning a piece of teams I think that sounds incredible. Especially, if they are athletes themselves they understand the type of training we go through and what it takes. So, we are excited that the game is growing and we are putting a product is quality and interesting to people. We are going to do our job on the court to communicate,” said player rep Carolyn Swords.

Earlier this month recently retired-guard Cappie Pondexter mentioned that it would be fantastic in an interview with The Hype Magazine.

“The WNBA has been around for 24 years now, and to have the credibility that we have grown. As well as people wanting to invest in the league to improve it, I think it is excellent. As a former player, it’s a great feeling, Pondexter said.

WNBA All-Star Liz Cambage shared earlier this season via an email question and answer interview. That she felt it was the responsibility of ex-players to invest in the WNBA to try to fix the problem.

I think it comes down to the CBA. It isn’t the pay gap. It is the way that our CBA and our contracts are designed at the moment. Teams are making money. The WNBA is making money. It comes down to the logistics of contracts and who gets paid what. If they change the salary cap that would be different. It isn’t about who wants to buy-in. It is about marketing what we already have. It shouldn’t come down to ex-athletes having to come in and push for it. It should come down to the people in charge already knowing what they should be able to do.

Last week WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert was finishing up her 12 city tour in Dallas possible expansion and the possibility of a lockout next season.

As you think about expansion my first job is to our 12 existing franchises. And to really transform our league and franchises, so we can have a long term and sustainable revenue base and thriving league. That’s number one down the road would there be some expansion discussion? certainly, if you are trying to grow the revenue and the league you would do that.

“I think our league is one, even if you are a first-round draft pick. You are not assured to make a team, so we have this incredible product on the court. So, certainly, expansion is on the list, but right now my number one priority is to turn the league in a thriving and profitable business.

Obviously we are in collective bargaining negotiations currently, we came out of the All-Star weekend met with the players association and very productive discussions. The players association has since put out another statement about being optimistic. Although we have a lot of discussions to go, it has been productive and one of the things as the new person on the scene.

Is that I have been fascinated when we win these negotiations and for 30 years negotiating contracts where I never had the same goal as the person on the other side. We all have the same goals here elevate the brand of the players, drive a revenue base that will pay the players more. Work with the player experience whether that has to do with travel or health, wellness, and mental health, we all that goal. We are all trying to find that model that will fit for the players,” said   Engelbert.

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