Historic WNBA labor deal doubles maximum salary for female players
OAKLAND, Calif. - There is a big change in the world of women's sports. The Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) has agreed to a new contract that will double the maximum salary for female basketball players.
But perhaps just as important, there's a shift in how female players are regarded, after years of complaints about unfair treatment.
On Wednesday night, the Oakland High Wildcats warmed up for a game against Castlemont High. "I feel that I can just be free when I'm playing the sport.
People expect boys to play it. Shows that I can do those things too," said 15-year-old Aniyah Story who's on Oakland High team.
Players said they enjoy the quick pace of the game, but have been critical of what they describe as the slow pace of the WNBA to compensate female players the same way as it would male players.
"I actually had a problem with that because the girls weren't getting paid as much as the boys," said 16-year-old Kya Pearson who's aspiring to play for the WNBA.
The WNBA has now placed what it calls a big bet on women, agreeing to a new contract that nearly doubles their salary.
Under this deal, the league maximum would increase from $117,500 to $215,000 and provide maternity leave.
"I was shocked. At first, I didn't believe it," said Pearson, "Even though it was low pay at first, I still wanted to play for the WNBA to say that I made it."
Oakland High Girls basketball coach Orlando Gray applauds the league's contract offer, "I was excited because I've been following the league since its inception."
The WNBA started in 1996.
Gray said his daughter Alexis Gray-Lawson is a retired WNBA player and his niece Chelsea Gray currently plays for the LA Sparks.
He said many female athletes play overseas where they are compensated much better than in this country.
Gray said he prefers to coach female basketball players rather than their male counterparts.
"Their ability to take the ball off the dribble. Guys get away with travelling, girls have to play the right way."
Coach Gray led Oakland High to a victory in the state championship last March.
"I want them to see us as basketball players, not girls. I want them to see me as an athlete, that I can do what anyone else can do," said Story.
The players said the new WNBA contract is a big step in the right direction, but that it may take a long time before female athletes are treated as true equals to their male counterparts.