The 2020-2027 WNBA CBA delineates a handful of new earning opportunities for players, including trade, time off, and merit bonuses. Trade bonuses, which cap at ten percent of the remaining base salary on a player’s contract, are made available to players who have accumulated six or more years of service.
A time-off bonus is meant to disincentivize a player from traveling abroad to play during the WNBA offseason, which on the one hand, protects the player from fatigue and injury, and on the other hand, protects the WNBA from losing talent based on earning potential. A player who might benefit from this is Alyssa Thomas of the Connecticut Sun. Thomas has been living with two torn labrums for years, and you’ll be reminded of this whenever you watch Alyssa shoot a free throw (and especially if the opposing team resorts to Hack-a-Thomas). Commentators gab about Alyssa’s chronic injuries as if they’re a quirk, or just an impressive testament to how addicted the All-Star is to working. The reality is damning: Alyssa has been refusing to address her injuries with surgery because she does not want to take time off of playing overseas during the WNBA offseason. For her, rehabilitation and recovery—up to seven months—would cost too much in lost paychecks for surgery to feel worthwhile.
The third new type of bonus is a merit bonus, which can be awarded on either a team or an individual basis. Team achievement bonuses are based on postseason play; any player on a playoff roster on the final day of the regular season will be paid a bonus that scales up based on team success in the playoffs. Individual achievement bonuses are rewarded to players who make All-Star teams and win All-Star Weekend awards and players who earn major league awards and are named to all-WNBA teams. For example, a league MVP who makes the All-WNBA First Team and All-WNBA Defensive Team, as well as their conference All-Star team, stands to earn an extra $29,825 in merit bonuses in a given season. Should that player win a WNBA championship with their team, they tack on an additional $11,356. In the same vein, a Rookie of the Year who makes the All-WNBA Rookie Team and their conference All-Star team wins the All-Star Weekend Three-Point Contest, and loses in the second round of the playoffs will earn an extra $13,603 in merit bonuses.
Also up for grabs are “league and team marketing agreements,” which, like the time off bonus, are designed to tempt players to pass up overseas opportunities. This marketing avenue, which will “recognize top performance and highlight the diversity of the league,” could earn some players up to $300,000 in addition to their base salaries. Further, beginning in 2021, the league will roll out new in-season competitions with $750,000 in prize money set aside.
The WNBA is a league of world-class talent and multitudinous, inspiring women. They deserve better than what they’ve been dealt with, but they and their advocates mustn’t let up.