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Highlights of the Collective Bargaining Agreement Between the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA)
Free Agency 101

  1. Salary Cap and Related Rules
    1. Term of Agreement
    2. Salary Cap and Minimum Team Salary
    3. Room
    4. Length of Contracts and Disclosure Rules
    5. Hardship Exceptions
    6. Annual Salary Increases and Decreases
    7. Team Salary Rules
    8. Player Contract Moratorium
    9. Maximum and Minimum Player Salary
    10. Rookie Salary Scale
  2. Free Agency
    1. Definitions of Free Agent and Reserved Status
    2. Right of First Refusal Rules
  3. Core Player Designation
NOTE This document sets forth a summary of various provisions of the WNBA Collective Bargaining Agreement, including some of the more frequently applied Salary Cap rules. This summary is intended only as a reference and is not meant to define the full meaning or scope of any provision in the agreement.

  1. SALARY CAP AND RELATED RULES

    1. Term of Agreement

      This Collective Bargaining Agreement began effective April 25, 2003 and runs through October 14, 2006. The WNBA will have the option to extend the terms of the CBA until September 15, 2007 unless certain revenue targets are met.

    2. Salary Cap and Minimum Team Salary

      Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, all teams are subject to a Salary Cap and Minimum Team Salary for each season. The Salary Cap places a limit on the total salaries each team can pay its players during the season, subject only to a very limited “Hardship Exception” (See E below). The Minimum Team Salary is the minimum amount that a team must pay its players in total salaries by the end of a season.

      The Salary Cap for 2006 is $700,000. The Salary Cap for each year of the Collective Bargaining Agreement is listed below.

      2003 $622,000
      2004 $647,000
      2005 $673,000
      2006 $700,000
      2007 (option) $728,000

      The Salary Cap for a year goes into effect on January 1 and continues in effect until December 31 the following year.

      The minimum Team Salary for each season is 90% of the salary cap.

      2003 $559,800
      2004 $582,300
      2005 $605,700
      2006 $630,000
      2007 (option) $655,200

    3. Room

      A team may sign players to the extent it has Room. Room is the amount by which a team’s Team Salary is less than the Salary Cap.

    4. Length of Contracts and Disclosure Rules

      1. In general, a contract between a team and a player can be no longer than three years in length.

      2. A contract between a team and its own free agent, who has been with the team for at least two years may be no longer than four years.

      3. Contracts with drafted rookies are all three years in length, plus a team option for a fourth year.

      4. Undrafted rookies may sign for one or two years.

      5. No financial terms of any player contract may be disclosed to the public by the WNBA, WNBPA, a team or its employees, the player or the player’s agent.

    5. Hardship Exception

      The WNBA Salary Cap is a “hard cap” and can only be exceeded due to extenuating circumstances involving player injuries and other medical conditions. In general, a team’s active roster must fall below ten players before a team would be permitted to sign a replacement player that would cause the team to exceed the Cap.

    6. Annual Salary Increases and Decreases

      The maximum salary increase or decrease from year to year in a multi-year contract is 4% of the first year’s salary (not 4% of the immediately preceding year’s salary). Rookie contracts increase by 2% per year.

      Examples

      1. A player makes $50,000 in the first year of a three-year contract. In the second year of the contract, she can make anywhere from $48,000 to $52,000. In the third year of the contract, depending on her second-year salary, she could make anywhere from $46,000 to $54,000.

      2. The first pick in the 2004 WNBA Draft makes $40,800. In year two, she will make $41,616, and in year three, she will make $42,432.

    7. Team Salary Rules

      1. A team’s Team Salary is the amount that is measured against the Salary Cap to determine if a team is under the Cap and by how much.

      2. The principal components of Team Salary are the salary amounts owed to players under contract and to players who have been waived but are still being paid because their contracts were guaranteed.

      3. From February 1 until the day prior to the first day of the regular season, a team may sign players to training camp contracts (non-guaranteed, one-year contracts at the minimum salary) that will not be included in Team Salary until the first day of the regular season.

    8. Player Contract Moratorium

      Players and teams may not negotiate or enter into contracts with one another from the end of the regular season until January 31 of the following year. Players and teams may begin to negotiate player contracts from January 15 through the end of January but cannot sign contracts (or offer sheets) until February 1.

    9. Maximum and Minimum Player Salary

      The CBA places maximum and minimum limits on the salary players can earn in any one season.

      Generally, the limits are as follows

      1. Maximum Salary

        2003 $85,000
        2004 $87,000
        2005 $89,000
        2006 $91,000
        2007 (option) $93,000

      2. Minimum Salary for players with at least four years of service

        2003 $42,000
        2004 $43,680
        2005 $45,427
        2006 $47,244
        2007 (option) $49,134

      3. Minimum Salary for players with 0-3 years of service

        2003 $30,000
        2004 $30,600
        2005 $31,200
        2006 $31,800
        2007 (option) $32,400

    10. Rookie Salary Scale

      Drafted rookies may only sign a three-year, non-guaranteed contract with an option in favor of the team for a fourth year. Rookie contracts increase in the second and third year by 2 percent each year. The fourth team-option year salary must represent a 5% increase over the third year.

      Picks 1-4Picks 5-8Remaining
      1st Round
      2nd Round 3rd Round &
      All Others
      2003$40,000 $37,000 $33,000 $31,000 $30,000
      2004$40,800 $37,740 $33,660 $31,620 $30,600
      2005$41,600 $38,480 $34,320 $32,340 $31,200
      2006$42,400 $39,220 $34,980 $32,860 $31,800
      2007$43,200 $39,960 $35,640 $33,480 $32,400

  2. FREE AGENCY

    1. Definition of Free Agent and Reserved Status

      1. Unrestricted Free Agents

        Beginning with the 2006 WNBA Season, players with at least six years of service are Unrestricted Free Agents and may sign with any team unless such player is designated as a “Core Player.” (See III below)

        2003 No unrestricted free agency
        2004 6 or more years of service required
        2005 6 or more years of service required
        2006 6 or more years of service required
        2007 (option) 6 or more years of service required

      2. Restricted Free Agents *

        For the 2006 WNBA Season, players with four or five years of service are considered Restricted Free Agents and may sign an Offer Sheet with any team. (See B: Right of First Refusal Rules)

        2003 6 years of service required
        2004 5 years of service required
        2005 4 or 5 years of service required
        2006 4 or 5 years of service required
        2007 (option) 4 or 5 years of service required

      3. Reserved Players*

        For the 2006 WNBA Season, a player with three or fewer years of service is considered a Reserved Players and can sign only with her prior team.

        2003 5 or fewer years of service required
        2004 4 or fewer years of service required
        2005 3 or fewer years of service required
        2006 3 or fewer years of service required
        2007 (option) 3 or fewer years of service required

        * Please note that teams are required to make “Qualifying Offers” at pre-determined amounts to players in order to retain exclusive negotiating rights or rights of first refusal.

    2. Right of First Refusal Rules

      1. Offer Sheets. If a Restricted Free Agent receives an offer from a new team that she wants to accept, the player and the new team must provide the terms of the proposed deal to the player’s prior team in the form of an Offer Sheet.

      2. Matching. The player’s prior team has 10 days from when it receives the Offer Sheet to “match” the Offer Sheet by agreeing to its terms. If the prior team does not match within 10 days, its right of first refusal expires and the player’s agreement with the new team becomes binding.

  3. CORE PLAYER DESIGNATION

    Teams are permitted to designate two players who would otherwise be Restricted or Unrestricted Free Agents as Core Players and retain exclusive negotiating rights to such players. The team must offer the player a one-year contract at the maximum, fully guaranteed salary in order to designate a player as Core. The player and team may then negotiate a multi-year contract.

    The Core Player designation lasts for the duration of the contract signed between the team and the player (or until that player is traded). Accordingly, if a team designates two players as Core and signs both of those players to multi-year contracts, such team may not have use of another Core designation for a number of years.

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