Labor settlement gives way to draft

Saturday, April 26, 2003

NEW YORK -- The WNBA settled its labor troubles and got back to basketball.

Friday's down-to-the-wire agreement meant the league could start its seventh season May 22 and proceed with its draft, with Cleveland selecting LaToya Thomas of Mississippi State as the overall No. 1.

Hours earlier, about 3 a.m., the WNBA and its players' union signed a four-year collective bargaining agreement, with a league option for a fifth. Among the key features is free agency -- the first in women's pro sports -- and a hard salary cap.

NBA commissioner David Stern threatened to cancel the WNBA's season if a deal not been reached.

"The last couple of weeks weren't without their share of drama," WNBA president Val Ackerman said. "It was very involved, and in some ways, the deadline catalyzed the discussion."

With a deal in place, the Cleveland Rockers selected Thomas with the first pick and Sacramento followed by choosing Vanderbilt center Chantelle Anderson. Detroit next picked Louisiana Tech center Cheryl Ford, whose father is NBA star Karl Malone.

The deal guarantees an increase of 4 percent a year in the amount that teams will spend on salaries, totaling more than 17 percent over four years.

In the first year, minimum salaries for veterans will increase 5 percent, from $40,000 to $42,000, and the rookie minimum remains at $30,000. The players had asked for a $48,000 minimum, and the league's original offer was $41,200 with rookie salaries cut to $25,000.

Stiles goes to Los Angeles

Former Southwest Missouri State star Jackie Stiles was picked by the Los Angeles Sparks in the WNBA's first dispersal draft on Thursday.

She had been with the Portland Fire, one of two teams that disbanded after last season.

-- From wire reports

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