Sue Bird thinks by 2026 the WNBA could be ‘dramatically different’

The WNBA is growing faster than ever, with two new franchises being announced within less than a year of each other. From rookie guard Caitlin Clark receiving a $28 million sponsorship deal from Nike to skyrocketing viewership to legends like Sue Bird becoming an owner in her beloved Seattle Storm, the stage is being set for a wild next few years for the league.

The WNBA’s CBA is inching closer to the opt-out period and a new media rights deal is looming. The WNBA and the Players Association each have the option, exercisable by providing written notice on or before Nov. 1, 2024, to terminate the CBA effective on Oct. 31, 2025, or, if later, on the day following the final playoff game of the 2025 season.

The WNBA currently earns around $60 million annually from its media rights deal, but a new deal could draw a much bigger amount. WNBA commissioner Kathy Engelbert believes the league could at least double the media rights fee.]

Bird weighed in on what a new media rights deal could mean.

“But once we see this media rights deal, assuming it’s going to be what we all think it’s going to be, you’re going to see things dramatically change in the WNBA,” Bird told The Associated Press. “It will be a whole new world. We have a hard salary cap somewhere in the $1.4 million range. But once the money gets interjected and maybe there’s a soft cap — now we’re talking. The media rights contract is up this year. The CBA has an opt-out next year — so by 2026, it could be dramatically different.”

As more money is infused into the league and the players, the bigger changes we will begin to see and those changes could be implemented into the new CBA. A few changes expected to be seen in a new iteration of the CBA include charter flights and a salary cap increase, which, in turn, will see higher salaries.

As with any growth, there will be growing pains, as we are now seeing with the investigation into the Las Vegas Aces players’ most recent sponsorship deal with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. But growing pains don’t have to last a long time and the more flexible the owners and league are with the increased interest, the better it will be for the league, the players and the fans.

Story originally appeared on Rookie Wire