By Frank Pingue
(Reuters) - The Women's National Basketball Association and its players' union on Tuesday said they reached a tentative eight-year labor deal that for the first time will see the average annual compensation for players hit six figures.
The agreement, which commences with the 2020 season and runs through 2027, will see players earn an average of $130,000 and allow women to collect a full salary while on maternity leave.
Under the new agreement, which is pending ratification by the players and the league's board of governors, top players will be able to earn more than $500,000 in cash compensation, which is more than triple the amount under the previous deal.
WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert, speaking on a conference call with executives from the Women's National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA), called the deal groundbreaking.
"We clearly have a moment, with many more to come by the way, and we have a movement driven by a long-overdue recognition and celebration of the power of women," WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said on a conference call.
"I'm so proud of the players of this league ... they brought attention to so many important topics during this negotiation, they drove the narrative and will continue to drive the narrative of what it means to be a female professional athlete."
Under the new deal, players with children will be provided with two-bedroom apartments as well as comfortable, safe and private place at work for nursing.
The deal even includes improvements to travel, which means players will receive premium economy airline tickets and individual hotel rooms for road games.
The WNBA will also work with affiliated leagues, teams and sponsors to provide off-season job opportunities designed to prepare players for their post-playing careers, and will advance diversity in coaching initiatives for veteran players.
WNBPA President and Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike said on the conference call that the deal positions the league in a whole new light.
"As we the players said at the very beginning we want a league that has fair and consistent conditions; a league that's committed to investing in the future and a league committed to investing in the health and the prosperity of professional working women and working moms," said Ogwumike.
"I am pleased to say that we have achieved that goal."
"A historic day. Relentless dedication and hardwork by the @TheWNBPA and @WNBA to get this done," Delle Donne tweeted along with the hashtag #BetOnWomen.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Toby Davis)