Black Women in the WNBA Fought for More Money and Better Quality of Life — And Won

In a landmark deal, players chart a new path for the WNBA with higher salaries, enhanced mental health resources, and other benefits

Tamryn Spruill
ZORA
Published in
6 min readJan 14, 2020

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Forward Nneka Ogwumike of the Los Angeles Sparks takes a shot in the game against the Phoenix Mercury at Staples Center on August 8, 2019. Photo: Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

WWhen basketball star Nneka Ogwumike announced in a November 2018 essay for The Players’ Tribune that the WNBA Players Association would opt out of its contract with the league, she also commanded the WNBA, and society at large, to bet on women. And with today’s monumental news, the WNBA demonstrated that it heard Ogwumike’s call for action loud and clear.

In a landmark move between the Women’s National Basketball Players’ Association and the league, a new collective bargaining agreement was reached that invests more into the players, 88% of whom are Black or women of color. Under the leadership of Ogwumike as the WNBPA president and a diverse WNBPA executive committee, Black women of the WNBA fought for better pay and working conditions — and won.

“It’s a momentous day for the league,” Ogwumike, a forward for the Los Angeles Sparks, said of the new agreement. “It’s just remarkable to be a part of a league that is majority Black women and for us to be as progressive as we are. I think we’ve done a great job of showing support for the community. We have so much diversity in the league. … We wanted to make sure to represent everyone.”

WNBPA director Terri Jackson expressed hope that the achievements announced will “lift up other women and other women of color in the workplace.”

For the players of the WNBA, this means making the proper investment in the people who are, essentially, the product. The results are this: higher salaries, so that players do not feel forced to compete overseas during the WNBA off-season and instead allowing them to get proper rest and rehabilitation for their bodies; better travel conditions, so that players no longer have to share hotel rooms with teammates or cram their tall bodies into commercial airline coach seats; better marketing provisions, which will enable players to benefit financially; and nutritional and mental health resources.

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Tamryn Spruill
ZORA
Writer for

Poet/artist to the bone turning tricks (in consulting, journalism, publishing, lecturing/teaching, etc.) for money.