The WNBA's 2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement: A Slam Dunk for Working Women and Mothers

48 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2021 Last revised: 27 Jul 2022

See all articles by Josh Lens

Josh Lens

Recreation and Sport Management Program

Date Written: March 20, 2021


While they are professional athletes and celebrities, Women’s National Basketball Association (“WNBA”) players encounter many of the difficult issues that working women and mothers in other industries face. However, the league and its players union recently agreed to a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) that they hope will not only improve working conditions for WNBA players, but set the standard for provision of benefits for women and mothers in the workforce generally.

The WNBA’s 2020 CBA provides three especially noteworthy gains for players. First, players’ compensation will increase substantially. Second, it established a forward-thinking intimate partner violence policy that addresses needs of LGBTQIA+ players and focuses on protecting victims as opposed to punishing perpetrators. Finally, the CBA provides generous and progressive benefits related to starting a family, including reimbursement for adoption, surrogacy, and egg freezing or egg fertility treatment expenses, as well as fully paid maternity leave. The family planning benefits can be especially important for WNBA players, many of whom are LGBTQIA+ and/or commit their bodies to their playing careers during what many consider to be their healthiest years for pregnancy and childbirth.

While the 2020 CBA is progressive, the WNBA and its players seem committed to continuing to work toward making progress in the workplace for not only WNBA players and other women professional athletes, but working women and mothers in other industries, too. To that end, the Article suggests that when negotiating their next CBA, the parties include explicit protection and benefits, including paid leave, for players who suffer pregnancy loss. This tragedy occurs relatively frequently and affects numerous working women every year. Unfortunately, most United States employers do not explicitly provide such protection and benefits. By doing so, the WNBA could further support its players, increase awareness of pregnancy loss, and continue making gains for women in the workplace.

The Article’s organization is as follows. It begins by examining the WNBA’s formation and history of extensive social activism. The next part describes collective bargaining in professional sports through the lens of the WNBA’s collective bargaining history, which has recently included attempts at improving gender equality and addressing other social issues. The Article then analyzes the relevant portions of the progressive 2020 WNBA CBA and what they mean for WNBA players and, perhaps, women professional athletes in other sports and working women and mothers in other industries. Finally, the Article suggests that the WNBA and its players negotiate explicit benefits and protection for players who suffer pregnancy loss in their next CBA.

Keywords: labor law, collective bargaining, sports law, racial equity, gender equity

Suggested Citation

Lens, Josh, The WNBA's 2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement: A Slam Dunk for Working Women and Mothers (March 20, 2021). Kentucky Law Journal, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Josh Lens (Contact Author)

Recreation and Sport Management Program ( email )

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