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CBA Watch: WNBA and WNBPA agree to extend negotiations by 60 days

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The current CBA was set to expire this week on Thursday, Oct. 31. In a move that suggests the WNBA and WNBPA need more time, the deadline has been extended to Dec. 31. Here’s a timeline of events and how we got to where we are and what happens if the two sides fail to reach an agreement by the new deadline.

2019 WNBA Finals - Game One
WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert
Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

WNBPA executive committee president Nneka Ogwumike announced on Nov. 1, 2018 through an essay in The Players’ Tribune that the union would opt out of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Since that time, Cathy Engelbert was hired as the league’s first-ever commissioner and began her duties in an official capacity in the days leading up to All-Star weekend in July. The current CBA was set to expire this week on Thursday, Oct. 31. In a move suggesting the WNBA and WNBPA need more time to hash things out, the two sides announced via joint statement on Monday that the deadline has been extended to Dec. 31.

Here’s a timeline of key events and what happens if the the WNBA and WNBPA do not reach an agreement by the new deadline:

Timeline of events

Nov. 1, 2018

Nneka Ogwumike announces that the WNBPA will opt out of the CBA.

April 28, 2019

A protected Twitter account for NBA PR drops the following information via an oddly-timed tweet:

There has recently been inaccurate information reported in the media regarding WNBA pay. In accordance with the CBA, the average compensation for WNBA players last season was $116,000. The top-paid player’s compensation was more than $187,000.

July 25, 2019

The WNBA and WNBPA issue the following joint statement prior to the start of All-Star weekend:

Earlier today the WNBA and WNBPA held a comprehensive and productive meeting regarding the Collective Bargaining Agreement. We are encouraged by the discussions and look forward to additional meetings in the near future.

August 29, 2019

The WNBPA announces the creation of a Board of Advocates made up of leaders from business, government, education and sports:

Stacey Abrams, founder of Fair Fight and former minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives

Adrienne Becker, co-founder/CEO at Level Forward

David Cooper, adjunct professor at NYU Preston Robert Tisch Global Institute of Sport

Alex English, retired NBA player and Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inductee

Sarah Flynn, general manager at Thirty Five Ventures

Sunny Hostin, Emmy-nominated co-host of “The View” and Emmy-winning senior legal correspondent for ABC News

Kathy Ireland, chair, CEO & chief designer at kathy ireland® Worldwide

Sharlee Jeter, president at Turn 2 Foundation, Inc. and VP of strategy & development at Jeter Ventures

Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, former Mayor of Baltimore

Joyce Roche, former president & CEO at Girls, Inc

Jerry Stackhouse, Vanderbilt men’s basketball head coach and retired NBA All-Star

Trisch Smith, global chief diversity & inclusion officer at Edelman PR

Tamika Tremaglio, Greater Washington managing principal at Deloitte Financial Advisory Services

Brent Zachary, program manager at Level Forward

At the time of the announcement, WNBPA first vice president Layshia Clarendon said:

Through their professional careers and contributions to their communities, the Board’s members have proven, time and time again, that celebrating, supporting, and investing in women and girls is also an investment in families and communities. We know that when we ‘Bet on Women,’ everyone wins.

Sept. 15, 2019

Commissioner Engelbert announces that league-covered charter flights have been arranged to get teams winning in the first round of the playoffs from the West coast to play the first games in the second round on the East coast. Engelbert explained the reasons for her decision:

We believe it is in the best interest of the players to provide them with an opportunity to arrive expeditiously in the city of the first game of the WNBA semifinals and have a full day on-site to practice, rest and prepare.

Although not directly related to the CBA negotiations, Engelbert’s decision suggested that players’ concerns over commercial travel have been heard.

Oct. 28, 2019

The WNBA and WNBPA announce via joint statement an agreement to extend the CBA deadline another 60 days:

The WNBA and WNBPA have agreed to extend the current collective bargaining agreement for sixty days to December 31 and will continue discussions regarding a new agreement.

What happens now

Since we’re not inside the rooms, we can’t know if the 60-day extension is the positive sign some may assume. Yet, adding more time to the negotiations process is certainly better than one side walking away. For now, the two sides continue their work. But what happens if the WNBA and WNBPA do not agree to terms by the new deadline? One possibility is that the league and union agree to extend the deadline further, even into the 2020 WNBA season. But with the WNBPA seeming more committed than ever to get this CBA right, it is hard to imagine all of the players being on board with starting a new season without new provisions in place.

In such an event, the union could consider a strike or lockout, though Ogwumike has said this option isn’t on the WNBPA’s radar because the goal is to get a deal done. If the sides reach an impasse, however, with either or both sides unwilling to compromise, the matter presumably could be settled through a form of mediation.