The prioritization clause in the WNBA’s collective bargaining agreement has been noted and discussed since it was put into place in January 2020. There have been rumblings of young stars skipping seasons and overseas clubs making it worth their while.
But on Thursday, Breanna Stewart bored the first significant crater into the WNBA landscape while speaking with reporters about re-signing with the Seattle Storm in free agency. The decorated superstar halfway into her career confirmed the one-year deal was because of the clause.
“For me, the biggest thing with the one-year deal was in regards to prioritization,” Stewart, 27, told reporters in an introductory news conference on Thursday. “It’s something that, if I’m quite honest, I’m not happiest about in our CBA because it’s just really limiting what professional women’s basketball players can do in their offseason and their ability to make money overseas.
“With the one-year deal, I have a little bit more flexibility in technically what I can do in 2023 as we try and figure out this prioritization.”
What is prioritization?
Prioritization is a clause in the CBA that kicks in for the 2023 WNBA season and mandates the league to fine players who are late to their teams’ training camp. Beginning in 2024, and at least running through the end of the CBA after the 2027 season, the league can suspended without pay for the entire season any player who does not report.
There will be exceptions for obligations to national teams as well as graduation and other significant life milestones. Players are exempt from the clause their first two seasons in the WNBA.
It is standard in major men’s professional sports for players to face fines if they do not report or do not play in portions of the season. But male players are making big-time money for one job that covers most of a calendar year. WNBA players make far less and have always supplemented paychecks by playing in longer seasons overseas that overlap with the WNBA.
A clear example: Ben Simmons is on an NBA contract worth approximately $30 million this season and was reportedly fined $360,000 for every missed game during his holdout. His fine alone is more than the $228,294 supermax salary a WNBA player can make for playing 36 regular-season games in the 2022 season.
Why institute the rule?
The prioritization clause was instituted alongside higher salaries — the highest-paid players previously made around $119,000 — with two objectives in mind.
Being without star players lessens the product, especially during the critical opening games. Fans have been waiting months to watch and they …….