The WNBA is the league of ‘contract divorces’

Liz Cambage is the latest WNBA player to go through a contract divorce with her team.

Liz Cambage is the latest WNBA player to go through a contract divorce with her team.
Photo: AP

The thing about marriage that most people don’t realize, or forget, is that it’s a binding legal document — thus making it a contract. But, despite how divorce is the breaking of a contract, and union, the thought of putting the two terms together has generally been a foreign concept — until the WNBA started doing it.

For the second consecutive season, WNBA players have been involved in “contract divorces” with their former teams. It’s as if the two sides parted ways with their divorce attorneys by their sides.

“NEWS: @LASparksAgree to Contract Divorce with Liz Cambage,” read the tweet from the team earlier in the week.

“It is with support that we share Liz Cambage’s decision to terminate her contract with the organization,” said Sparks managing partner Eric Holoman in a statement. “We want what’s best for Liz and have agreed to part ways amicably. The Sparks remain excited about our core group and are focused on our run towards a 2022 playoff berth.”

On Tuesday, Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes shed light on how the saga culminated in a “contract divorce” after a conflict over a jersey number choice, critiques in film sessions, and on-court gripes Cambage had with her teammates. Things never got better in Los Angeles after reports surfaced that the reason Cambage left the Australian National team before the 2021 Olympics due to “mental health concerns” was because she called players on the Nigerian national team “monkeys” — something she still denies. Ironically, the leaders of the Sparks are sisters Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike who are Nigerian.

You can imagine how things were in that locker room, as it all led to a “contract divorce” — something that Tina Charles also had an entanglement with this season.

“After discussions with Tina and her agent, it was best for both parties to go our separate ways at this time,” wrote Phoenix GM Jim Pitman in a statement. “Due to circumstances both in and out of our control, our season has not gone according to our plan, and we will continue to pursue all avenues for improvement.”

After losing in the WNBA Finals last season, things haven’t gone right for the Mercury as their best player — Brittney Griner — has been locked away in a Russian jail cell for more than 160 days. Charles got out, and she’s currently playing for the Seattle Storm who are in second place in the Western Conference.

If you’re a little confused about this process, here’s how it works.

Teams and players have the right to mutually agree to terminate a contract before it’s up. After that, the team has to request waivers, followed by approval from the commissioner. Once that’s taken care of and the player clears waivers, the contract is terminated and the amount of the player’s remaining salary will be either reduced or eliminated. In simpler terms, it’s kind of like a contract buyout after a player has asked to be released. And after that, both sides made a deal about the money and whatever is, or isn’t, owed.

And while Charles and Cambage were the ones that made headlines, there have been five “contract divorces” in the WNBA in 2022. There were only three last season.

Breakups are normal, and rules — and contracts — were made to be broken. But over the past two seasons, the WNBA has given us a new term. And so the next time a relationship, business deal, job, or situation isn’t working out for you, channel your inner Liz Cambage and Tina Charles and seek a “contract divorce.”

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