The WNBA has officially announced its plans to have a shortened, 22-game regular season followed by a traditional playoff format starting in late July at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. The league was set to have a 36-game regular season starting May 15, but WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert was forced to suspend operations in early April due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Big news: The @WNBA officially announces plans for 22-game regular season starting in July with standard playoffs ending in October – with all games at IMG Academy in Florida – after players vote to approve proposal.
— Mechelle Voepel (@MechelleV) June 15, 2020
As ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel reported on June 4, the league’s first proposal included paying players just 60% of their normal salaries in a shortened season, but following discussions with the players’ union, the league will now pay players 100% of their salaries and provide full health benefits. IMG Academy is set to be the league’s single site for training camp, games and housing, according to the press release.
“We are finalizing a season start plan to build on the tremendous momentum generated in the league during the offseason and have used the guiding principles of health and safety of players and essential staff to establish necessary and extensive protocols,” Engelbert said in the release. “We will continue to consult with medical experts and public health officials as well as players, team owners and other stakeholders as we move forward with our execution plan. And, despite the disruption caused by the global pandemic to our 2020 season, the WNBA and its Board of Governors believe strongly in supporting and valuing the elite women athletes who play in the WNBA and therefore, players will receive their full pay and benefits during the 2020 season.”
The proposed season would take place without fans, as the league’s top priority is the health and safety of its players and staff. No details regarding testing protocol were laid out in the release, and Engelbert said that the league will continue to consult medical professionals and players as it finalizes its plans.
Additionally, several WNBA players have attended nationwide protests against racism and police violence in recent weeks, and have publicly voiced their support in this important time for social change. In the press release, the league recognized the players’ actions and said it aims to back them, writing that “the WNBA 2020 season will include a devoted platform led by the players that will aim to support and strengthen both the league and teams’ reach and impact on social justice matters.”
“We have always been at the forefront of initiatives with strong support of #BlackLivesMatter, #SayHerName, the LGBTQ+ community, gun control, voting rights, #MeToo, mental health and the list goes on. This is not only necessary from a humanitarian perspective, but it may be one of the biggest opportunities that this league has and will ever have,” said WNBPA President Nneka Ogwumike, who plays for the Los Angeles Sparks.