The WNBA and the Women’s National Basketball Players Association agreed on a plan to return to the court for the start of the WNBA 2020 season, the league announced on Monday.
What We Know:
- WNBA players have agreed to a plan between the league and the players’ union to play a 22-game season starting in July. Despite a shortened season, a regular playoff format and schedule will follow but there will be no fans in attendance for any of the regular season or playoff games.
The WNBA announces plan to tip off 2020 season.
— WNBA (@WNBA) June 15, 2020
- Players are given the option to opt-in or opt-out of the 2020 season and allowed until June 25 to notify their teams of their participation. Those who opt-in will receive 100 percent of their 2020 salaries despite the shortened season, assuming the league is able to complete both the regular season and playoff games. Players with high-risk medical conditions can opt-out and still receive full salary and players without medical conditions can also choose to opt-out without punishment, but will not be paid.
- “The WNBA and its Board of Governors believe strongly in supporting and valuing the elite women athletes who play in the WNBA and therefore, players will receive their full pay and benefits during the 2020 season,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a news release Monday.
- A start date for the league has not yet been determined but could start as soon as July 24. The season is also required to end by October 31.
- The league is finalizing a partnership with the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida for it to become the official home of the WNBA 2020 season. The IMG Academy will be the home for each of the league’s 12 teams and serve as a single site for training camp, games, and housing. The league has also identified several other potential destinations as fallback locations if the plan to play at IMG Academy becomes impossible due to coronavirus spikes in the area or local policy changes.
- The living situation is expected to be similar to what the NBA plans to do in Orlando with players living in a controlled bubble-like environment in villas at the IMG Academy. Both sides are expected to later address various living situations for players and their families.
- Engelbert addressed health concerns regarding the pandemic our nation is still facing, saying, “health and safety is clearly our No. 1… testing, temperature checks” will be conducted as players are “in the same environment on a campus where we [are] all together”. Engelbert later added that the league was “working with medical specialists, public health experts, and government officials” on medical protocols and protections to keep players and staff safe amid the continuing coronavirus pandemic.
- The WNBA, like the NBA, is working to address how the league’s return would affect activism related to police brutality and systemic racism. Engelbert said, “The players are launching a bold social justice platform. And one of the positives of being all together is their ability to use that time as a call to action around driving change. This country definitely needs that”. Los Angeles Sparks forward and the president of the W.N.B.P.A., Nneka Ogwumike, said that they are already connecting with groups that could help the players use the season as a platform for activism and help to turn the “unexpected into something that could be very beautiful, with 144 voices in the same place”.
- The WNBA has a history of activism in the league as they were among the first professional athletes to protest in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. In a release, Engelbert said, “The WNBA opposes racism in all its forms, and George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are the latest names in a list of countless others who have been subject to police brutality that stems from the systemic oppression of Black Lives in America, and it is our collective responsibility to use our platforms to enact change”.
Engelbert is excited about the future of the WNBA, telling ESPN, “There will be a lot of eyes on us. Let’s think about how strong our platform can be.” The current plan for the 2020 season hopes to get teams to Florida by early July for a team training camp period and regular-season tipoff by late July.