It’s often said that freedom isn’t free; to that end, the concept of free agency was kind of a big deal when it was first introduced in professional sports leagues like the NFL (in 1993) and the NBA (in 1988). And now, decades later, it’s the National Women’s Soccer League’s turn to get a taste of liberation, with ESPN reporting that the NWSL and the NWSL Players Association agreed to their first-ever collective bargaining agreement on Monday.
Per ESPN, as part of the landmark deal, players who have spent six or more years in the league will be eligible for free agency beginning with the 2023 season. In 2024, players with five years will receive the same privileges, and restricted free agency will be awarded to players with three years of service. As for waived players, they’ll receive a month of housing and health insurance in addition to four weeks of severance pay.
There’s also this juicy bit of information regarding my favorite word: Raises.
The contract also raises the minimum salary by 60% to $35,000 with 4% annual increases, and it includes increased levels of free housing, transportation, 401(k) matching contributions, health insurance and other benefits. According to the league, that will increase the average total compensation for players by more than 30% to $54,000 over the 2021 season.
In 2021, the minimum salary per player was $22,000, prompting the NWSLPA to launch its #NoMoreSideHustles campaign because many players had to work second jobs to get by.
“This is a historic moment for women’s soccer in the United States,” NWSL interim CEO Marla Messing said in a statement provided to ESPN. “This transformative agreement represents deserved advancements for our players, including significantly stronger compensation packages and benefits, enhanced training and playing environments, and a long-term commitment to continually improve the standards we all regard as essential to securing our position as the best women’s soccer league in the world.”
“Players drove every decision in this process,” NWSLPA executive director Meghann Burke said in a statement. “Over more than 40 bargaining sessions, these players stood strong and stood together, right up to the moment of ratification. This is a historic moment not only for our sport and our league, but for all working people who stand up and stand together.”