The WNBA wants players to prioritize the league, but at what cost?


Candice Parker didn’t hold back when the WNBA’s new priority-setting rule surfaced during Sky’s exit interviews.

She hasn’t played abroad since 2018, but when she did, those lucrative contracts were what paid for her home in Los Angeles and her daughter Lily’s private school education, not the WNBA.

“The WNBA was my summer job,” Parker said. “Playing outside was my job, my main livelihood, and I wouldn’t be able to do the things I do today without it. ”

The new prioritization rule was negotiated as part of the WNBA’s collective bargaining agreement, which expires after the 2027 season. In 2023, the rule will require all players with three or more years of experience to be in the market by the start of training camp or by 1 May, whichever comes later. If players arrive late, they will be fined. If they miss the start of the regular season, they will be suspended for the year.

The rule becomes more restrictive in 2024, requiring all players to arrive at the start of camp, training or facing a suspension for the season.

Since the CBA was ratified in 2020, prioritization has been a looming topic. The imminent enforcement of the rule has players across the league considering their options. Seven of the 10 players on Sky’s shortlist in 2022 will head abroad to compete for European clubs for the next eight months – all but Parker, Kahlia Cooper and Ali Quigley.

Quigley chose not to compete abroad for the first time in 15 years, which signals her retirement approaching. After the 2021-22 season tallied the Copper, winning the WNBA Finals Player of the Year award and following up with several Spain Player of the Year awards, she has opted not to play abroad and will focus on rest.

Cooper has said during Sky’s exit interviews that she will be working with the WNBA this off season, but she did not specify in what capacity. The CBA includes additional cash compensation in unofficial marketing agreements, with select players earning up to $300,000. This may be what copper benefits from.

Emma Misman plays with Fenerbahce in Turkey after she wrapped up her World Cup competition for Belgium. Messman believes her team will shrink its schedule to accommodate returning WNBA players.

Messman believes the prioritization rule is particularly unfriendly to international players who have limited time with family. Her concern is that if Fenerbahce tightens her schedule, it will affect the already short breaks she gets during her season abroad to go back home to see the family. During the WNBA season, Meesseman was not able to visit her family at all.

“I have 10 days after my last match with the national team before I go to Turkey,” Mesman said. “After the European season, I usually have 10 days as well. Maybe two weeks, if I’m lucky. [After prioritization]I won’t have that. it’s not possible.”

Messmann prioritizes the team she was with at the time, and now that’s the Belgian national team. She won’t make a decision to play in the WNBA in 2023 until the free agency begins, but having time with her family will be extremely important to her.

One of the league’s high-profile clients believes that the biggest problem players face in 2023 with prioritization is being fined for the absence of training camp. The 2023 WNBA season is expected to begin on May 19, allowing most players to play their entire outdoor season without facing a suspension for missing the start of the regular season.

WNBA players competing in France will face a longer season that includes WNBA games. In these cases, agents negotiate clauses in their clients’ contracts that allow them to leave by an agreed-upon date.

Julie Allemand, who will compete for LDLC Asvel after competing with Belgium at the World Cup, is the only member of Sky 2022’s roster signed to play for a French team.

Courtney Vanderslot has made a career abroad and in the WNBA since being recruited by Sky in 2011. She signed to play for Sopron in Hungary after five years playing with UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia. She has talked about the improvements made to her game as a result of playing it throughout the year.

Her intent going forward in the WNBA is to sign year-long deals and deal with a free agency weighing her options abroad.

“I still hope the WNBA will come up with a solution because I don’t think we’re there yet,” Vanderslot said.

Parker’s biggest concern for the WNBA about prioritizing is that it will cost her one of its top players, something she doesn’t think the league can risk.

Commissioner Kathy Engelbert discussed the rule-setting prioritization of the WNBA Finals series between the Aces and the Sun, expressing her full support for the owners’ struggle to establish the rule.

The trade-off between the priority setting rule was a sharp salary increase, but they did not begin to compare with what overseas stars were making. The maximum base salary in the WNBA is $228,094, but players like Brenna Stewart of Storm make upwards of seven figures overseas.

The league’s goal with the base is for players to prioritize the WNBA. To achieve this, the league must give them enough reason to do so. So far, that hasn’t happened.

“I am ashamed of [WNBA] Because teams don’t touch what I make in Europe, Storm forward Gabe Williams said during exit interviews with her team.


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