In what could be his final season in the WNBA, the legendary Seattle Storm point guard, Sue Bird, will play for the league’s veterans’ minimum salary of $72,141, she confirmed at a news conference to announce the deal and her return for a 19th. year with the Storm.
“For me, winning championships and being a part of teams that go down that road, that’s everything,” Bird said Tuesday. “That’s why I play. That’s the motivation always. Nothing else matters outside of that. While the money is incredible, and of course we all want to be in a workplace that rewards you in those ways, I find that there will be other rewards to winning – – some monetary, some different.
“I’d rather be on a team that has a chance to win if it means the money has to be split differently. That was actually the motivation for me to approach the franchise and talk about what my salary would be because that was the priority.”
The conversation was not new to Bird. ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel reported on her willingness to accept less money last season, and Bird said she was made a similar offer in 2020, the first year the WNBA raised maximum salaries for individual players as part of a new collective bargaining agreement between the league and its players’ association, where Bird is part of its executive committee as the vice president.
Those two years, Seattle would end up with enough money to spare to pay Bird the WNBA super max ($221,450 in 2021).
“Of course I was thrilled with that, especially as someone who, up to that point, never had a chance to win the [actual] maximum contract because that wasn’t what it was,” Bird said. “I was on some other maximum that wasn’t quite the same. So when there was the new maximum — it had nothing to do with helping negotiate it — it was more, this is just what’s available. I’ve been that player, I never had the opportunity, so I would love to have the opportunity.
“At the end of the day, winning is more important to me and being in a good team. And if that means, to get other players, we needed some money to go elsewhere, I was fine with that. I’ve agreed. with that the past three seasons.
Things changed this year, when Bird’s All-Star teammates, Jewell Lloyd and Breanna Stewart, they became eligible for the super max contract. The pay cut that Bird took also made it easier to sign the shooting guard. brian january in free agency and make a trade sending to Katie Lou Samuelson to the Los Angeles Sparks in exchange for Gabby Williams.
If all 11 players currently under contract with the Storm make the team’s roster on the first day of the season, Bird could make a little more money — up to about $86,000, according to salary data from HerHoopStats.com. Bird’s decision to accept fewer gives Seattle’s front office more options, including adding a 12th. player earlier in the calendar.
“It’s so hard to predict what would have to happen during the season,” Storm general manager Talisa Rhea said. “Actually we have [espacio] where we are to load 11 players. It gives us a little more flexibility to try to sign someone who makes a little more than a minimum contract, it gives us the flexibility to bring a player on a seven-day contract or the rest of the season. It just gives us a little more room to manoeuvre.”
Bird isn’t the only WNBA star to take a pay cut this season. According to Winsidr’s Rachel Galligan and confirmed by HerHoopStats.com, the former league MVP, Tina Charlessigned a one-year, $108,000 deal with the Phoenix Mercury a year after leading the league in scoring with the Washington Mystics.
From Bird’s point of view, those decisions align with what he sees across the entire team sports landscape.
“I’ve heard rumors here and there that I would take the minimum of veterans, even that Tina would take less money, and what makes me laugh is that this happens everywhere in sports. You see it all the time. No superteam is created without anyone accepting less than their market value. That’s just the reality of sports. It’s probably exaggerated in our world because money is less.
“In our world it’s a little bit different. I understand that. It’s also because we have a hard boundary. My point of view is that it will happen, it will always happen. This is sports. Players will always be tempted in certain ways to do that if they want to be a superteam, for lack of a better term.
To some extent, the WNBA’s bonus system helps make up for that when players get paid less to sign with a rival team. Players from the league champion earn an additional $11,356, and the new WNBA Commissioner’s Cup — won by Seattle in its inaugural year — awards more than $30,000 to each player on the winning team. Those players also benefit in terms of sponsorships off the pitch.
“That’s a nice reality of women’s sports right now,” Bird said. “When you’re a winner, when you’re on TV, you’re going to get more opportunities. So for me, especially if this ends up being my last year, the money will come in other ways. I know I’m lucky to be able to say that, not every player they can, but that is changing for all the players. It really is.”
There is an added benefit to taking less money which Bird demanded Tuesday.
“I’m not buying dinner all season,” she joked. “Dinner is bought by young women now.”
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Bird accepts salary cut for possible final season