Brittney Griner speaks to the media for the first time
The GIST: It’s a new dawn and a new day for the WNBA. Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner spoke to the media for the first time since she was wrongfully detained in Russia yesterday and renewed the spotlight on the league’s salary structure.
The details: Outside of playing for Team USA, Griner stated she will “never go overseas again” to supplement her WNBA salary. “A lot of us go over there to make an income,” she said. “I don’t knock any player that wants to go overseas and wants to make a little bit extra money.”
The revenue: The WNBA should make major financial gains this year — it’s projected to rake in $180M to $200M in combined team and league revenue, up from $102M in 2019 — and the league already collected its first big payday of 2023. Its three-year TV deal with Scripps is worth $13M annually, much more than the $250K Twitter paid for games in 2021.
- Unfortunately, the league will hang onto most of those dollars. The collective bargaining agreement (CBA) includes revenue sharing with players, but only if the WNBA sees 20% YoY growth, which remains a stretch goal. If they manage to reach that target, only 17.5% lands in players’ pockets.
The next steps: WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said lucrative media deals are the key to increasing the salary cap. For example, ESPN pays $27M to $33M annually for its WNBA slate, though Engelbert thinks the WNBA can score a nine-figure agreement after its deal with ESPN expires in 2025.
- The players might take matters into their own hands before then, though. The CBA includes an option for either party to abandon their agreement at the end of the 2025 season, and the players — who have to notify the league by the end of the 2024 season — are expected to do so. Stay tuned.