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Gender non-conforming WNBA player Layshia Clarendon says the new CBA is ‘queer-inclusive’

Connecticut Sun point guard Layshia Clarendon served on the players’ union committee that negotiated the new collective bargaining agreement with the WNBA.

USA Women’s National Team v Stanford University
Layshia Clarendon of the USA Women’s National Team goes for a loose ball against Stanford University on November 2, 2019 Maples Pavilion in Stanford, Calif.
Photo by Jack Arent/NBAE via Getty Images

Layshia Clarendon, one of the few gender non-conforming athletes in the WNBA and sports in general, is opening up about what the union’s new collective bargaining agreement with the league and what it means for her and her wife, sports agent Jessica Clarendon.

“My wife and I bought a condo, and so you start to look at things that you could really set up for your future,” Clarendon told the Washington Post.

Among her other opportunities: getting to rest in the off-season instead of accepting a potential six-figure offer to play for a team in Turkey. A chance to invest, to save up to start a family. One report even suggested this new deal could double her salary.

“I don’t know that I would completely double my salary,” Clarendon told the Washington Post. “That’d be pretty nice. But I think it’s starting to sink in now. And in the moment of negotiating on the CBA, I was just so invested in wanting to make sure that everybody rose.”

Clarendon, a point guard for the Connecticut Sun — who uses both she/her/hers and they/them/theirs pronouns — served on the Women’s National Basketball Players Association executive committee.

She earned $93,400 in 2019 playing for the Sun.According to the Post, maximum salaries will jump from $117,500 to $215,000 under the terms of the CBA.

As our SB Nation partners at swishappeal.com reported last week, the “groundbreaking” CBA gives WNBA stars the opportunity to earn more than $500,000 in cash compensation each season. The deal not only contains an increase in annual base pay, but also bonuses for performance-based awards, prize money from forthcoming in-season competitions and new league and team marketing opportunities. Other top players can earn $200,000 to $300,000 in total compensation, with league-average cash compensation estimated to be $130,000.

“With these new potential opportunities to make earnings, it’s another reason I think it reinforces the good investment that the league is making in increasing our salaries,” Clarendon said in a phone interview with the newspaper. “Because now I’m like, well, I don’t feel as bad not going overseas or I’m really missing out on as much money, because I can sign a contract for what could potentially make up the difference… So in that way, I think it’s really cool that that investment is already paying off for me.”

As the Post reported, Clarendon sometimes wonders whether she’ll regret leaving the money from foreign teams on the table. But her dream of playing for USA Basketball in the Olympics and an offseason spent at home in the Bay Area was more to her liking.

Also important to her, Clarendon told the paper, is a guarantee for her own hotel room and economy-plus seating on flights.

“The toughest thing was scheduling,” Clarendon said. “Some people stay up late and watch TV, some people talk on the phone at night. So that was always the like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to room with this person because they’re going to be on FaceTime at whatever o’clock.’ ”

Clarendon and her wife plan to start a family, she said. Stipulations in the collective bargaining agreement include a $5,000 child-care credit, plus a guarantee for two-bedroom housing. And as a gender non-conforming player, LGBTQ issues were a priority, she said.

“From the beginning I was like, we better be queer-inclusive on this,” Clarendon said. “Does it cover this type of mom or does it cover only the person who carried the child, not if the person wasn’t going to carry? All those things from the very beginning, I’m trying to really make sure we’re making it as inclusive as possible for all types of working moms in this league.”

Clarendon wants to see greater diversity in how the league distributes the $1.6 million annually in marketing agreements promised to the players in the CBA.

“We’ve had some conversations just around the power of authenticity with the league, around how we know as a league, we haven’t done a good job marketing us,” Clarendon said. “And you have to acknowledge the historical context, women being gay in sports has been a stereotype that I think the league hasn’t wanted to touch, right? We’ve been afraid, we’ve been more afraid to be like, ‘Oh God, we’re the gay league,’ or that we fit that stereotype.

“But I think now we’re realizing that there’s so much more opportunity and it’s really cool to be gay now,” Clarendon continued. “It’s cool to be a black woman. It’s cool to have natural hair. And so it’s a softball in so many ways because our league is literally set up of these types of women.”