WNBA Player Kristi Toliver Makes Only $10,000 as Assistant Coach for Washington Wizards

Washington Mystics basketball player Kristi Toliver makes only $10,000 as an assistant coach for the NBA team, while others in the same role earn sometimes $100,000 or more

Washington Wizards v Portland Trail Blazers
Photo: Sam Forencich/NBAE/Getty

Washington Mystics basketball player Kristi Toliver makes only $10,000 as an assistant coach for the Washington Wizards, while others in the same role earn sometimes $100,000 or more, according to new reports.

Toliver’s limited salary is the result of a rule established by the Women’s National Basketball Association, The New York Times reported this week.

The rule, a collective bargaining agreement, or CBA, stipulates all Mystics players who work for the Wizards in the off-season — this includes Toliver, 31, as the D.C. teams have the same ownership — cannot be paid more than a combined $50,000.

And when Toliver took the job in 2018, much of that pot was already dedicated to her teammate Elena Delle Donne, who promotes the Mystics when she’s not playing, according to the outlet.

Washington Mystics v Phoenix Mercury
Kristi Toliver. Christian Petersen/Getty

The Times reported that the collective bargaining agreement was put in place when it was atypical for women players to work for the NBA team.

The owner of the Mystics and the Wizards, Ted Leonisis, addressed the controversy in a tweet on New Year’s Day.

“The league rules and collective bargaining agreements never contemplated having a WNBA player also working as an NBA coach,” the Monumental Sports CEO wrote. “We’re glad to be the first and the rules need to change. Kristi is a critical member of our family at Monumental Sports.

This iteration of the collective bargaining agreement may be coming in an end, however. According to CBS Sports, the players recently opted out of it — a decision that will go into effect next season and could set the stage for a wider range of paid opportunities within the WNBA.

The vote took place in November, and it’s likely that the league will comply with a new arrangement because it ultimately will increase promotion of their games, allow more time for the players to rest their bodies and put more attention on their talent, The Times reported.

As Mike Bass, who oversees public relations for both leagues, said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE: “There is a cap on both the in-season and off-season salary that a WNBA team or team affiliate can pay to its players. While it’s necessary for competitive fairness to ensure the integrity of the WNBA salary cap, the league is committed to providing robust career development opportunities to both current and former players.”

The WNBA also explained in a separate statement: “The rule placing a cap on off-season compensation that a WNBA team or team affiliate can pay its players is necessary for competitive fairness among WNBA teams and to ensure the integrity of the CBA. This rule does not affect WNBA players working for any of the 25 NBA teams that do not own WNBA franchises. The league and our teams remain committed to providing coaching opportunities in the WNBA and NBA for current and former players.”

Agreeing to the low salary was a difficult decision for Toliver, but she wanted the chance to learn from some of the best coaches and players in the world, she told The Times.

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“You can’t just pull [any woman] off the streets to do this, just like you can’t pull any guy off the streets to do this” Toliver explained. “It can’t just be any woman. It’s not about that. If they know that you can make them better, make them more successful, they’ll listen.”

A rep from the Mystics and the Wizards declined PEOPLE’s request for comment beyond Leonisis’ statement.

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