NEW YORK (AP) — Breanna Stewart will be a paid ambassador for the WNBA this season.
The reigning league MVP tore her right Achilles tendon while playing overseas this winter. Because the league has no injury list for teams, the Seattle Storm suspended Stewart without pay to free up a roster spot.
The WNBA will pay Stewart in excess of the roughly $65,000 base salary she would have made with the Storm, according to a person familiar with the details. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on Thursday night because no official announcement has been made.
Seattle potentially could have kept Stewart on the active roster, but the Storm also lost Sue Bird indefinitely to a knee injury this week, meaning they would have started the season with only 10 healthy players. There is a clause in the current CBA if a team gets below 10 healthy players, it can sign a replacement player until the team gets back above 10.
The union, which was informed of the Stewart decision, is interested in some kind of change, whether it's in the form of an injured reserve list or a roster expansion.
"We thought it was a great idea and encouraged the league to think of other players that would make great ambassadors," said Terri Jackson, executive director of the WNBPA. "We wanted to see how it develops as the concept and plan rolls out. This league is represented by many great players."
It will be a big topic of discussion around the CBA, which expires after this season because the players opted out at the end of 2018 season.
"That's definitely something that would help the league grow," Los Angeles Sparks star Nneka Ogwumike, president of the players' union, said in 2017. "It's all about resources and talking about the logistics of everything. Looking forward, we'd like to spark that type of change."
The league had an injury list from 1997-2005. Players had to sit out a minimum of three games from the date they were placed on the list. Then the WNBA had a two-person inactive list from 2006-08 before rosters were reduced to 11 in 2009. Rosters are back up to 12 now.
Chiney Ogwumike missed 2015 and 2017 because of two separate injuries. In 2015, she had microfracture surgery on her knee and the Connecticut Sun kept her on the roster all year, costing them a spot. Although Ogwumike couldn't play, she was still the face of the franchise while making appearances.
Two years later when she hurt her Achilles tendon, the Sun suspended her, freeing up the roster spot and not having to pay her.
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