The WNBA and WNBA Players Association are being honored with the Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award, as part of this year's Sports Humanitarian Awards, which are being handed out in conjunction with the ESPYs.
The league and its players were singled out for their eight-year collective bargaining agreement, which was agreed to in January. It included salaries for top players increasing by nearly $100,000 (to $215,000) in addition to changes to free agency, travel improvements, additional motherhood and family-planning benefits, enhanced marketing and career-development opportunities, and changes to revenue-sharing potential. The league said there will be a 53% increase in total cash compensation, separate from insurance benefits, housing, per diems, etc. Cash compensation consists of base salary, additional performance bonuses, prize pools for newly created in-season competitions, and league and team marketing deals.
"We believe it's a groundbreaking and historic deal," WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said at the time. "I'm proud of the players; they bargained hard, they unified, they brought attention to so many important topics."
The agreement runs through the 2027 season.
WNBPA executive committee president Nneka Ogwumike said the union was very concerned with fighting for "quality of life" issues, including travel, which has long been a concern of players. Under the new CBA, premium economy class status is guaranteed for all players during the regular season. Also, each player will get a hotel room, rather than some players sharing rooms.
"Those things may seem small to some people, but with the nature of our job, those things really matter," Ogwumike said in January. "Those things do impact performance. You have more comfort on flights, and with your own room you're not worried about waking your teammate or interfering with their sleep patterns."
In honoring the league and its players, the Sports Humanitarian Awards noted they worked together to stand up and speak out on behalf of injustice and marginalized communities.
The ESPYS will be televised on ESPN on June 21 at 9 p.m. ET. The Stuart Scott ENSPIRE award is sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb.