The WNBA and its players union could be near an agreement to begin the 2020 season, which was scheduled to start May 15 but was delayed due to the COVID-19 crisis.
The league’s executive council spoke with WNBA Players Association (WNBPA) team representatives on Thursday night, per ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel. They will then inform all players on their team of the latest proposals.
The reported plans are for a 22-game regular season in Florida with continuous testing for the coronavirus. Players had voiced concerns about an initial proposal earlier this week.
WNBA plans for return in Florida
The WNBA is planning a 22-game regular season that would start July 24 and be played at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, per a report earlier this month by ESPN.
The initial reported proposal offered a salary at 60 percent of normal pay. Players began getting paid June 1 after teams cut their squads down to 12 players without the benefit of training camp.
The 2020 regular season was initially slated to be 36 games for some of the 12 teams opening in new arenas and with new branding. The league and players union passed a new, groundbreaking collective bargaining agreement in the offseason and it was a banner year for free agency moves.
WNBA proposal will include 100% salaries
The proposal for the season will include 100 percent of salaries, Voepel reported late Friday. A vote will come this weekend and if an agreement is made, it could be announced Monday. After the WNBPA pushed back on the 60 percent salary offer, the league, union and union’s executive committee met again.
“It’s a very good proposal for the players, especially in comparison to other sports leagues,” one longtime WNBA agent told ESPN. “No one will criticize anyone who doesn’t want to play. But the majority of players definitely want to play. And they appreciate the work that’s been done by the league, the union and the executive committee to get to this proposal.”
There will reportedly be a provision for players who are medically certified as high-risk if they get the coronavirus to opt out of playing. They would get a full salary. Other players can also opt out, but will not be paid their salary.
Details of league’s return
Per ESPN, the details of the return at IMG Academy:
Testing: Players, coaches and team personnel will be tested for the virus upon arrival and throughout their stay.
Facilities: Players will stay at a hotel or in multi-room villas with kitchens. Some meals are provided. There will be per diems for other meals or for groceries.
Children: Players can bring their children into the bubble along with a caretaker. Their meals, lodging and testing will reportedly be paid for.
Family/Friends: Players with at least five years experience can bring a “plus-one” — namely their significant other — to stay for the season. That person would not be covered by the league. Per ESPN, the costs could amount to $4,000 a month for the plus-one.
Playoffs: The postseason would be conducted as standard, with elimination games the first two rounds, then five-games series in the semifinals and finals. It would end in October. All players can bring a plus-one upon reaching the semifinals.
Players voiced concern over initial proposal
Players were reportedly concerned their opinions were not being heard about the WNBA’s plans to play a season in a bubble, per Ari Chambers at The Next. They voiced concerns about the food available to them and the space they’ll have, which is huge considering there will be stipulations on what players can do.
Atlanta Dream head coach Nicki Collen told Yahoo Sports she’s expecting any training camp to be about two weeks, shorter than the standard three. Players are also coming off of playing overseas when they come into WNBA camp in a standard year. Per Chambers, that short of time is also a major concern considering many players have been dormant — no indoor courts to play on — for three months since the pandemic swept across the U.S.
WNBA players looked for an option to not play, per The Next, given the lower salaries and risk of infection.
The NWSL offered an opt-out to its players with full pay given if they don’t play. The league will play its Challenge Cup tournament in Utah beginning June 27. It checked in with mothers in the league to address their unique concerns, something that hadn’t been raised in earlier details of WNBA plans. Per Howard Megdal of The Next, the NWSL helped lay the groundwork for the WNBA’s plan.
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