Giving a Voice to Professional Female Athletes
with Terri Jackson of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association
Equity in sports: Learn more about a landmark collective bargaining agreement that provides WNBA players higher salaries, better conditions, and paid maternity leave — a deal advocates intend to become a model in other industries.
Terri Jackson, Executive Director of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association, shares what inspires her to lead the women athletes of the WNBA and her role in negotiating the historic agreement.
January 29, 2021
Anderson: For women in sports, it's an historic time -- from the US women's national soccer team's fight for better pay to pro runners challenging policies for maternity-leave benefits, professional female athletes are standing up, speaking out, and demanding their fair share. Hello and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. In January 2020, the WNBA and the WNBPA reached a consensus on a new collective bargaining agreement that included higher salaries, better travel conditions, paid maternity leave, and more. Joining me today is someone who helped negotiate this landmark agreement on behalf of the players. She's Terri Jackson, she's here with us, and she is the executive director of the Women's National Basketball Players Association. And, Terri, thank you for taking the time to be here.
Jackson: Thank you, Tetiana.
Anderson: So, you've been behind some pretty big things -- we just heard about the collective bargaining agreement. You're behind the women who are using their platforms to speak out for social change. But I wonder what inspires you, what motivates you in order to lead these women to do such great things.
Jackson: Oh, great question. You know, I had the opportunity of putting together and teaching a class -- now 20-some years ago -- called "Women in Sport." And through that class, I was able to follow the professional sports leagues, the birth of the WNBA. And I saw such a great opportunity to tell the really, really rich stories of the women in this league. Little did I know I'd have the opportunity, now 20-some years later, to be their executive director and to lead-serve them in all of their efforts on the court and off the court. So, what inspires me, quite honestly, is the athletes themselves -- they are amazing, amazing women, mothers, sisters, entrepreneurs. And like I said, it's just a great privilege to be their executive director.
Anderson: Some of the things that you help them work through, like pay equity, improved travel conditions, maternity leave benefits, are things that we see that are lacking across other industries in the United States and, really, around the world. What do you make of the lag in equity for women in general?
Jackson: You know what? I think it's really quite simple -- we still have have a culture that does not value what we bring to the table, does not respect what we bring to the table. We have an opportunity in this 2020 collective bargaining agreement -- it really is a landmark bargaining agreement in professional sports -- we have an opportunity to kind of raise the level of care and respect and value for professional athletes who happen to be women, but not just for professional athletes, not just in sports. And, certainly, we're looking to do it for basketball, for soccer, and for our sisters in hockey. But we're also looking to make a statement in the medical profession, in the legal profession, in the teaching profession, in engineering that we are here, that we are ready, that we are prepared, and that we deserve, you know, what we see the men getting also.
Anderson: And you talked about making statements, and the women really are using their platform to make statements about various issues to achieve social change. One of the things that they're talking about is an end to racial injustice. And that prompted a pretty impressive -- I think it's been called a love letter -- from some notable, very notable women to you, to the women players. And I want to read just a little bit of it. It says, quote... What did it mean to you and the players to get that kind of hearty thanks for what you're doing?
Jackson: It's amazing. Hundreds of women who are leaders and rock stars in their fields have said to the players, "We see you. We support you. We stand in solidarity with you." That meant a great deal to the players, especially in this moment, when they were looking to advocate for change from the bubble, during the 2020 season. These are women such as Donna Brazile, Julianne Malveaux, of course, Johnnetta Cole. And I'm not going to look to name them all -- there are so many others who just stepped up and said, "We see what these sisters in basketball are doing. We see, you know, that there's so much on the line, and there's so much that's important to them. They are standing up -- they are courageously." And so, for those women to say, "We stand with you -- we have your back" -- that just gave extra momentum to what the players were doing this past season.
Anderson: And, Terri, if people want to find out more about what you're doing with the women players, what the association is doing, what's the website?
Jackson: They should go to wnbpa.com, follow us on Twitter and Instagram @TheWNBPA.
Anderson: Terri Jackson, executive director of the Women's National Basketball Players Association, thank you so much.
Jackson: Thank you, Tetiana.
Anderson: And thanks to our viewers, as well, for watching. For more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the country, as always, be sure to log on to comcastnewsmakers.com. I'm Tetiana Anderson.