So you just heard the news about a WNBA player, and you’re wondering what it means when a WNBA team waives a player. We’ve got you covered. In short it’s kind of a fancy way of saying the player got cut, and has the chance to sign with other teams. But most likely, they’ll just have to fight for a shot to make a team again next year. The time after the Draft and before the start of the season is most busy with waiving, and this year has given the drama of Succession a run for its money. Let’s get into the details.
Being waived means the WNBA team has ended their contractual obligation to that player and is no longer obligated to pay them (beyond any previously guaranteed salary). So the player is no longer on the team’s roster, and is now ‘on waivers.’
As the WNBA CBA states, “If a Team terminates a player’s Standard Player Contract during the training camp period, and the provisions of Section 6(a)(i)(y) above do not apply, payment of the player’s lodging and meal expense allowance during the training camp period, payment of the reasonable traveling expenses of the player to her home city, and the expert training and coaching provided by the Team to the player shall be full payment to the player.”
“If a Team terminates a player’s Standard Player Contract during any Regular Season, all obligations of the Team to pay compensation thereunder shall cease on the date of termination, except the player shall be entitled to receive, as full compensation for her services thereunder, a prorated portion of her Base Salary based upon the number of days of the Regular Season that such player was under Contract with the Team.”
This can happen to college players trying to enter the league through training camps after being picked on draft night, as well as to returning players trying to come back and play for the same team they were on the previous year, in addition to veteran players who weren’t previously on the team waiving them but who have played in the league in years prior for other teams. For example, rookie Brea Beal was waived by the Minnesota Lynx on May 16, 2023, while returning player Charli Collier was waived by the Dallas Wings on May 17, 2023, and veteran Karlie Samuelson was waived by the Los Angeles Sparks on May 16, 2023. It can also happen to players during the season, except for a short period prior to the Playoffs where teams are locked.
Lots of players get waived each year because WNBA teams can only keep 12 players, and many only keep 11 due to the team’s salary cap (the pool of money they’re allowed to spend on players’ salaries total). This makes it particularly hard for rookies to break into the league; already 12 first- and second-round picks have been cut out of 24 draftees. Teams must have their opening roster cuts made by May 18th this year, so there will be a lot of waiving action in the days leading up to that. You can view all the WNBA waive transactions on Across the Timeline.
Teams waive players for a number of reasons, due to only having a limited salary budget to work with, including performance issues such as skill set or competitive ability, moral character, sportsmanship, injuries, strategy, and fit. Because there aren’t WNBA pre-draft workouts, where as there are for NBA teams, it can be harder to assess fit upfront with incoming players.
For a short period of time after a player is waived, other teams can try to claim the player. As the WNBA CBA states, “Prior to terminating a player’s Standard Player Contract, a Team must offer to assign the player to the other WNBA Teams pursuant to the WNBA waiver procedures then in effect; provided, however, that a Team shall not offer to assign the player pursuant to the waiver procedures if the Contract being terminated is a 7-Day Contract or a Replacement Contract.”
Basically in the following 48 hours after being waived, all the other teams in the league can claim the player’s current contract. If multiple teams submit a claim, then the WNBA awards the contract to the team with the highest waiver priority.
If no team claims the player during that time, then she is considered to have ‘cleared waivers’ and becomes an unrestricted free agent. An unrestricted free agent is any free agent who has no current obligations to play for a WNBA team, and who is free to negotiate with any team in the league without another team claiming a right of first refusal, explains Her Hoop Stats. Basically, once in that status, the player can negotiate and sign a new contract with any team they want.
But often, the player ends up just being out of the league for that year. Though a small percentage may get picked up by a team on a hardship contract or 10-7 day contracts throughout the year.
Unfortunately the WNBA doesn’t have a developmental league similar to the NBA’s G League and calls for expansion have not yet been met. So players have to work to get better on their own, with the hopes of maybe getting on a WNBA team the following year. Often that means they’re training at home, going overseas to play, or possibly earning their way onto the Athletes Unlimited roster. Unless they’re lucky enough to get a call if a WNBA team gets hit with injuries and needs more players to compete this season.
Many WNBA veterans have spoken out about the issue this year, including Nneka Ogwumike and last year’s number one pick Rhyne Howard.
Others, such as veteran Sydney Colson and Coach Dawn Staley have offered words of encouragement to the up and coming hoopers, to keep their head in the game.
Meanwhile rookie Alexis Morris who got waived from the Connecticut Sun took to Twitter to express her frustrations with the difficulty of securing a spot in the world’s most competitive women’s professional basketball league, causing quite a stir.
Which prompted veteran hooper Kayla McBride to weigh in, explaining everyone’s done their work to earn their spot.
So that’s the scoop on waiving. In short, just think of waiving like a team waving goodbye to a player! And while there’s no clear next step for a player who doesn’t get picked up by another team, that doesn’t mean the player has to wave goodbye to their dreams. Just check out Seattle Storm’s Yvonne Turner’s path.
Be sure to get your WNBA League Pass and prepare to watch great games this season!