Breanna Stewart remains patient on WNBA salary overhaul: 'Not something that's going to change overnight'

Two-time WNBA champion Breanna Stewart is hopeful players will one day see sweeping changes when it comes to the league’s pay scale, but she knows it will take a while for significant changes to actually happen.

“You can talk about opportunities for pensions and charters and all these things, but it’s not something that’s going to change overnight, and it’s the mix between us continuing to be great on the court and taking advantage of the things happening off the court,” Stewart told People.

The compensation WNBA players receive has been a hot topic in the days following the 2024 Draft. Former Iowa basketball sensation Caitlin Clark was the top overall draft pick last week, and her Indiana Fever jersey was in high demand.

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Breanna Stewart reacts during a basketball game

United States Breanna Stewart reacts to the referee during the 2022 FIBA Womens Basketball World Cup Final match between the USA and China at Sydney Superdome, on Oct. 1, 2022, in Sydney. (Photo by Steve Christo – Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)

Clark is projected to earn $76,000 for her first season in the league. The salary incrementally increases each season, but her estimated rookie salary left many stunned and prompted calls for women’s basketball players to get a bump in their salaries.

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Many of those NIL deals she had in college are expected to remain in place as she enters the professional basketball ranks. 

Breanna Stewart dribbles

New York Liberty forward Breanna Stewart, #30, drives to the basket during a WNBA game between New York Liberty and Connecticut Sun on June 27, 2023, at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. (M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Clark also landed an eight-year deal with Nike that is worth up to $28 million, The Wall Street Journal reported.

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert previously expressed optimism about the league’s push toward developing to a point where higher salaries and private air travel are a reality.

“People ask why we aren’t in the same place as the men’s league. … What will help is expanding the number of teams. I haven’t been shy about talking about expansion,” Engelbert said.

Caitlin Clark and Cathy Engelbert

Iowa’s Caitlin Clark, left, poses for a photo with WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert after being selected first overall by the Indiana Fever during the first round of the WNBA basketball draft on Monday, April 15, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

“You’ve got to build an economic model to fund everything they want; higher pay, travel benefits, etc. It’s important our players understand where we get our revenue, where all the expenses are going and their questions around that.”

In October, the WNBA announced that the San Francisco Bay Area had been awarded an expansion team. The league has not yet revealed a name for the new team, but the franchise will be owned by the Golden State Warriors and begin playing in 2025. The Atlanta Dream were founded in 2008 and were the last team to join the WNBA.

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“We are thrilled about expanding to the Bay Area and bringing the WNBA to a region with passionate basketball fans and a strong history of supporting women’s basketball,” Engelbert said in October.

The WNBA currently has 12 teams. The Bay Area team will push that number to 13. At least five other cities are currently under consideration for the league’s 14th franchise. Engelbert said she is “pretty confident” there will be 16 teams in the league by 2028.

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