WNBA CBA set to expire during playoffs
NEW YORK (AP) -- The WNBA's current collective bargaining agreement is set to expire before the end of the WNBA's playoffs setting up an unusual situation.
The deal ends Sept. 30 and the finals won't start until a week later.
It's uncommon for a major sports league to play without a CBA. Baseball's CBA ended in 1993 and the players went on strike in August that season after playing the first few months. That strike wiped out the 1994 World Series.
WNBA league officials aren't concerned there would be any interruption once its contract expires.
"No, not at all," WNBA President Laurel Richie told The Associated Press. "We're heading into what will surely be a highly competitive and exciting WNBA playoffs and finals, and are engaged in ongoing discussions with the union that we are confident will result in a fair agreement that provides a strong foundation for years to come."
The two sides met during the league's All-Star weekend at the end of July, but haven't had many face-to-face conversations since.
"We would like to accelerate the bargaining process," said WNBPA director of operations Pam Wheeler. "The pace has been slower than the players would like and we would like. We view the expiration with a sense of urgency."
In the past the CBA always expired after the season was over and the two sides had months to hammer out a new agreement. When the current CBA was signed in 2008 a Sept. 30 date was set. There was never an expectation that the postseason would end later than that. Usually, only during Olympic years when there is a break in the WNBA schedule to allow players to compete in the Games has the season gone that long.
"There's quite a bit of uncertainty when an agreement expires," Wheeler said. "There are a myriad of options available to them and us. As a result of that it creates an air of uncertainty which the players are aware of."
One of the major issues facing the CBA is roster size. In 2009, the players' union agreed to reduce the roster from 13 to 11 players to save money and ensure labor peace. That move has hampered teams over the past few seasons in both games and practices. Both sides seem to agree that it needs to be addressed this fall.
"The biggest issue is getting another roster spot or two," said Indiana's Tamika Catchings, who is the president of the Players Association. "Not having enough players to practice and play the majority of the season is tough."
Catchings has experienced the issue firsthand. The Fever were hit harder than anyone else this year by injuries. Indiana players missed over 143 games this season due to injury and the team never had 11 players in uniform on game day.
Adding a 12th player to the roster doesn't seem to be a huge financial burden.
The max a WNBA player can earn is $107,000. The league minimum for players with less than three years of service is $37,950. Players with more than three years of service earn at least $55,000. Factor in the additional costs of housing, transit, travel, per diem and insurance and adding a non-max play would cost a team on average $80,000 to $100,000.
Doesn't seem like much when each of the league's 12 teams will receive approximately $1 million annually from ESPN through the extension of the WNBAs television deal through 2022.
Catchings said that getting the two sides together before the deal expires could be tough with the playoffs starting Thursday night.
"It's such a rough time of the season for all of us," she said. "Even with the executive committee a majority of us are playing for a championship. You want to focus on that. But we have to be responsible and juggle two hats if necessary and get everything done and not have it drag out."
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