Cathy Engelbert and Chiney Ogwumike discuss new CBA, state of women’s basketball

The WNBA commissioner and the Sparks forward hosted a joint town hall to discuss a range of topics involving women’s sports

The Los Angeles Sparks hosted a town hall last week titled “A Conversation with Chiney Ogwumike and Cathy Engelbert.” The event featured Ogwumike, who is currently a forward on the Sparks roster, as well as Engelbert who recently took over as the first-ever commissioner of the WNBA.

Both Ogwumike and Engelbert discussed a multitude of topics, but at the forefront of the discussion was the historic WNBA collective bargaining agreement that was ratified back in January.

The CBA was monumental in that it included an increase in player salaries, as well as added benefits such as paid maternity leave, a stipend for childcare, housing assistance for players who have children, and special accommodations for players who are breast-feeding.

Also included in the new CBA were provisions dealing with mental health issues. The discussion around mental health has been growing nationally, especially in sports, and Ogwumike credited Las Vegas Aces center Elizabeth Cambage for being an instrumental voice in bringing the mental health conversation into the CBA talks.

Not only will players have access to mental health resources, but they will also be independent of their employers. Such an issue arose in the NBA when former player Royce White raised concerns about doctors employed by the team trying to diagnose and treat players’ mental health issues.

“She was the reason why we have the whole mental health resources, we will have resources for all players,” Ogwumike told reporters after the event. “Our WNBPA has fought for it to be independent of the NBA, no one should have mental health resources that are tied to their workplace. To have not only those resources established but also resources that allow players to feel comfortable like it’s a place for them, separate from everything else, is everything.”

Another important topic at hand was the issue of generating interest and coverage of women’s basketball, and women’s sports in general, as well as inspiring young girls towards a career path in sports.

Engelbert referenced a recent program called “Game Growers,” by Nike in which they hosted events for teenage girls in both NBA and WNBA cities.

“That’s amazing, we need to times that by one hundred and make sure we’re providing opportunity and funding for girls to stay in not just basketball, but all sports,” Engelbert told reporters after the event. “It’s really important, we have to make sure we have a healthy pipeline of girls in sports and staying in sports.”

The WNBA draft is about one month away, and the 2020 season will begin in May. With the help of the new CBA, this free agency period was unparalleled compared to any other time in league history.

Engelbert believes the league, and women’s basketball, in general, is a very good spot with a key focus on helping inspire young girls interested in a career in basketball not only on the playing side but within front office and media as well.

“I do think it builds confidence and leadership skills that are unparalleled. I think the state of the game is really healthy,” Engelbert said. “I think we also need more girls and women ultimately becoming coaches or in broadcast or front office and COO and general manager positions, the business of basketball positions. All of that, whether you’re an athlete or not, I think we can do more grassroots around that.”

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