By Jennifer Roback
On February 3, 2022, the Women’s National Basketball Association announced the results of its first-ever capital raise.
The league, now valued at $1billion, was able to raise $75million from big-name investors including Nike and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, to help accelerate growth and globalization.
“We are incredibly fortunate to be able to capitalize on the current momentum around women’s sports and are grateful to the investors who have chosen to support the WNBA in an unprecedented way and to our team governors who continue to invest in the players and teams,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement.
“Our strategy is to deploy this capital to continue to drive the league’s brand as a bold, progressive entertainment and media property that embodies diversity, promotes equity, advocates for social justice, and stands for the power of women. Having just completed our historic 25th season, with this access to additional capital, we are setting the WNBA up for a successful future and it represents a sign and signal of the future direction of women’s sports as a whole.”
Other investors include Dell Technologies CEO Michael Dell, Apple's Steve Jobs, Joe and Clara Tsai, who own the WNBA's Liberty and the NBA's Nets, and Laurene Powell Jobs.
The fundraiser comes amid player's calls for higher salaries and better benefits, and while it remains unclear how the money will be spent, Engelbert adds that the league is open to ideas from the players’ union about how to use it.
“Women’s sport is one of the best investments, with great potential to impact and grow the next era of basketball,” Sonja Henning, VP, North America League Partnerships, NIKE, Inc., added.
“Nike has always been more than a sponsor with the WNBA – we’re a strategic partner. And we’re proud to be part of a movement to redefine the future of sport for a new generation – for WNBA players, fans and girls.”
Among the efforts players are calling for include chartered flights. In the NBA, players travel on private jets but in the WNBA, players fly commercially.
Elizabeth Cambage, a four-time All-Star took to Twitter on February 1, 2022, to call for change not only in traveling accommodations but also in pay.
"ahhh yes the @WNBA, where a head coach can get paid 4x the highest paid players super max contract. lmao and y'all think imma spend another season upgrading my seat on a flight to get to games out of my own pocket," she wrote.
Cambage's comments came after it was revealed that Becky Hammon had signed on to coach the Las Vegas Aces with a $1million annual salary. For the 2022 WNBA season, the minimum player salary is $60,671 and the maximum is $228,094 with a team salary cap of about $1.4million.
Last year, Cambage’s base salary with the Aces was reportedly $221,450.
When asked about Cambage’s Twitter post, Engelbert said: “People get emotional. People tweet things. We all want the best travel conditions for our players. But the reason why it’s there for the men’s league is because they get these big valuations. They get media rights of their assets," according to the New York Times.
Not only are players calling for higher wages and transportation, but they are also calling for expansion, two possible locations include Oakland, California and Toronto.
The $75million will ultimately help the league progress, however, some wonder just how long it will take for players to get the salaries they deserve.