Stewart and Collier plan to start a new women’s league to play in WNBA offseason

NEW YORK (AP) — WNBA stars Breanna Stewart and Napheesa Collier are starting a new women’s basketball league to give top players another option to play in the U.S. in the offseason once the league’s prioritization rules go into effect next year.

The new league, which is called Unrivaled, will run from January through March and have 30 of the top women’s players playing on six teams. Instead of the traditional 5-on-5 game, the teams will play 3-on-3 and 1-on-1 at a custom-built soundstage in Miami.

The league was first reported by ESPN.

“We remain committed to the WNBA, however there’s a problem that exists, which is players having to choose whether to play overseas to maximize earnings in the winter or stay home with family. We’ve decided to create our own solution,” Collier tweeted.

The hope is to raise enough funding to pay players roughly what they make during the WNBA season to help offset the money they’d be losing out on by not playing overseas in the offseason. The maximum base salary for WNBA players is just over $230,000. Players like Stewart have earned more than a million dollars playing overseas in the past.

“Every initial player will receive equity ownership within the league and earn salaries that are competitive to the WNBA,” Collier said. “We do plan on expanding.”

Collier said the new league will play on shortened full courts with more spacing, more scoring and shorter games.

The prioritization rules were part of the collective bargaining agreement that was ratified in 2020 and requires players to return from their international teams by the start of WNBA training camps or else not be able to play in the league’s season. Overseas seasons often run through the middle of May, conflicting with the WNBA calendar.

Unrivaled would join Athletes Unlimited as a domestic offseason option for women’s basketball players. AU has 44 players in its league and is set to begin its third season next year.

“I think the future is bright,” said Megan Perry, who was announced Thursday as AU’s head of sport. “The more opportunities they have to play the better it is. I don’t think we could be anything but excited about the new opportunities that exist domestically for women’s basketball. You look at the overall landscape of women’s basketball in the global community — it’s good for the game and speaks to the demand that exists. There’s room for everyone at the table.”

Both Stewart and Collier have played overseas in their careers. Collier stopped after giving birth to her first child last year. Stewart’s wife, Marta Xargay, is expecting their second child in the fall.

“Stewie & I both have daughters. It’s our responsibility to show them & every young girl that looks up to us that sometimes you don’t have to wait your turn,” Collier tweeted. “You can either beg for a seat at the table or you can build your own table. We’re building our own table.”


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