Leagues and Governing Bodies

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert puts league growth top of mind

Engelbert said that the WNBA is looking at adding two expansion teams in the next few yearsMARC BRYAN-BROWN

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said that she is "focused on growing the league" amid calls to expand rosters, according to Percy Allen of the SEATTLE TIMES. Engelbert said, "We're transforming the economics of the league. We want to bring new owners into the league longer term. We need to find the right time to do that." Engelbert began a 12-city tour of the league with a stop in Seattle for the regular-season opener last Friday against the Minnesota Lynx, and she said that the WNBA is "looking at adding two expansion teams in the next few years." Engelbert: "When you're a country the size and scale of ours and you're only in 12 cities, growing the league is a way to do that as well. Then you open up roster spots. I don't think it's about rosters per team. It's about more opportunities to play for more players." Storm F Breanna Stewart last week said that the league "needs to consider adopting a practice squad, developmental league or easing the constraints of the WNBA's hard cap to allow teams to sign one to two extra players." The rise in players' salaries has "vastly eclipsed the salary cap," and as a result, 10 of the league's 12 teams "began the season with 11 active players, one shy of the limit." But Engelbert said that increasing roster sizes "will have to wait for now." She said, "There is a point in time when hopefully we'll have the economic strength to have these conversations, but right now is not that time. ... We need a little more time to transform the league" (SEATTLE TIMES, 5/7).

ROSTER SIZE WOES: In Boston, Gary Washburn wrote the WNBA is a league "rising in success and with more growth potential," but last week was difficult for a league "becoming the hardest professional sports league in which to make a roster." The draft is becoming "less impactful, with first-round picks not guaranteed to make the roster." Stewart has pushed to "soften the salary cap to allow for more minimum-contract players," but the WNBA "has to devise a plan to make the draft more effective." Of the 36 players drafted in '21, only 19 "played in the WNBA." With no women's minor league, that left 17 players "with little option besides going overseas." Engelbert "would love to expand the league and develop a minor league system," but the issue is "financial backing." Washburn: "Who's going to pay for a women's version of the G League?" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/7).

TV DOLLARS: In S.F., Bruce Jenkins wrote the WNBA stands among the "most admirable professional leagues worldwide." Though it has built up a "fascinating cast of characters, coaches and teams," there are "unresolved issues." This WNBA "cannot consider itself whole until" the "media-rights deal grows." It pays the league an "absurdly low $25 million a year," but there are "hopes a new deal will perhaps surpass $100 million when it comes up" in '24. TV money is the "key to any league's survival" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 5/8).

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