Candace Parker and Breanna Stewart discuss future of the WNBA

Candace Parker and Breanna Stewart talk about increasing player salaries, ensuring future athletes have better opportunities and activism in the league at the espnW: Women + Sports Summit.

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- Candace Parker has had three WNBA presidents during her career. Breanna Stewart has had one. On Wednesday, both praised outgoing president Lisa Borders and looked ahead to the qualities they most hope to see in the next president.

The Sparks' Parker, a two-time WNBA MVP, and the Storm's Stewart, who won the WNBA title and was league MVP this season, were here speaking at the espnW: Women + Sports Summit at Pelican Hill Resort.

Parker came into the league in 2008 when Donna Orender was president. Orender was replaced by Laurel J. Richie after the 2010 season, and then Borders took over in 2016, the year that Stewart was drafted into the WNBA.

It was announced Tuesday that Borders was leaving to take over as president and CEO of Time's Up, an organization advocating for women in the workplace.

"You want the best for Lisa, and if this is a better opportunity for her individually, I support that," said Parker, who also spoke with espnW after Wednesday's panel concluded. "I'm thankful for what she's done for our league for the last three years. But we're always looking forward.

"I think the new president has to have three key components: You have to have the business background, be able to unite and connect with people, and you've gotta love basketball."

Dan Stark / ESPN Images

When asked how to continue to grow the WNBA, Candace Parker said: "Give us a little time, we're 23 years young. I'm pretty confident if you turn out to a WNBA game ... you're going to be hooked."

Stewart added, "We came in together, and Lisa's had my back individually. I'm thankful we had the opportunity to work together. But I think for the next president, just someone who comes in and is really confident, knows what we need and handles themselves like that. Someone who is really looking out for the women of this league and fighting as much as we are."

Being the players' advocate is an important part of the WNBA president's job. But the president also advocates for the owners and has to walk that tightrope between the interests of both when it comes to labor negotiations with the players' union and director Terri Jackson.

The current WNBA collective bargaining agreement went into effect in March 2014 and runs through October 2021. However, both the league and the union have the right to opt out and terminate the agreement after the 2019 season. Either side has until Oct. 31 of this year to exercise that opt-out provision.

Asked what she was most hopeful the players would achieve in the new CBA, or at least during her career, Parker said, "Just our quality of living in terms of travel and hotels. And the schedule. Having a bit more say in that. Our schedule this year was very tough, and I don't know if we would have agreed to that."

Dan Stark / ESPN Images

Breanna Stewart, left, was the 2018 WNBA MVP, while Candace Parker won the award in 2008 and '13. They both are former winners of the WNBA Rookie of the Year.

Several players have expressed some concern that they didn't advocate for themselves as successfully as they could have for the last CBA. But Parker said part of that was some players' lack of participation in the process.

"You've got to vote. There were a lot of people who didn't vote for our CBA or against our CBA," Parker said. "So at least have a voice. I think that's the main thing. We started this process earlier in terms of preparation.

"Terri Jackson has done a good job of informing us, and we're aware of what's at stake and what we wish was done in the last CBA. I think as long as we are informed and are voting, those are the things that are most important."

Related Content