WNBA players’ dilemma: Make money abroad or stay home and rest?

AnotherViewsquareA  “time off bonus” of up to $50,000 a player can earn for “limiting their overseas play to three months or less” is part of the collective bargaining agreement signed earlier this year by the WNBA players and the Printleague. But is 50 grand enough of an enticement to keep them from going overseas or shortening their time there? “I think that all of the athletes can and should take advantage of the situation to stay home and get that bonus,” advises Columbia College Chicago Assistant Sports Management Professor Monique Maye, whose sports management company also represents female pro players. She believes that the players could instead use the WNBA off-season for attending graduate school or working in their collegiate field of study. “There are so many things out there that they can do using their degrees,” continues Maye. Still, a female player making six-to-seven figures playing during the winter in some foreign land is hard to resist. “You have a player making $100,000 for six months’ pay — your average American don’t make $100,000 a year,” admits Minnesota Lynx Assistant Coach Shelley Patterson. “They choose to go to Russia or China for the money and save a nest egg for themselves.” New York second-year guard Sugar Rodgers told the MSR, “I played in Israel. Then I took a two-week break and played in France” after her rookie season in Minnesota concluded last fall. “Eventually I would love to see the season flipped to the regular basketball season [during the winter],” states Lynx Broadcast Analyst Lea B. Olsen. The eventual wear and tear their bodies will experience as a result of year-round hooping can’t be overstated enough. “I think it does shorten their overall career,” admits Lynx Team Doctor Joel Boyd. “It is tough — this is our career, and this is what we decided to do,” says Lynx Guard Seimone Augustus. “I’ve seen it both ways” on players going overseas and also those staying home instead, states Patterson. But if the players stay home, this would provide her the opportunity to work with them in off-season player development, she believes. “It is hard for [women players] to play all year round,” says Coach Patterson.  “Maybe they could stay here and coach [women’s college basketball].” Still, globe-trotting basketball for female hoopsters, bouncing endlessly from WNBA to overseas and then back to WNBA, is like the Friends of Distinction — they’re just going in circles. Oftentimes this can be sacrificial in ways no amount of money can reconcile. “We make sacrifices, [such as when] my dad turned 50 and I wasn’t even there to see his 50th birthday,” recalls Augustus, adding that she and fellow WNBAers want this league around “for the generation behind us, but it is tough both physically and mentally being away from your family and friends.” The pay disparity that exists for W players can’t be ignored. “A lot of people don’t understand the disparities in salaries. They say, ‘Wow, they play just as hard as the guys,’” notes Patterson. “I look at us as pioneers,” says nine-year WNBA guard Cappie Pondexter, named several years ago as one of the top 15 all-time players in league history. “Hopefully in the next 10 years or so, women basketball players can be like how the NBA is now, where players don’t have to go overseas and have the luxury of choices to make if they want to make the extra money.”   Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com. To see more stories by Charles Hallman stories click HERE