Uncertain WNBA proposal a factor in Jones’ decision

JONQUEL JONES

Women’s National Basketball Association All-Star and Grand Bahama native Jonquel Jones looks forward to her time off from the WNBA this season.

The two-time all-star made the surprising decision to not play the 2020 season this past Monday, June 22. The association is getting ready to begin the 2020 season at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, the bubble location to play out the 22-game season and play-offs. 

Recently, the 6´6´´ center for the Connecticut Sun voiced that the resurgence of the COVID-19 virus, particularly in the state of Florida, played a chief role in her decision to forego this season, with full intentions of returning for the 2021 season. Jones signed a multi-year deal with the Sun during free agency back in February. 

The Freeport News was able to get in touch with the star center/forward. Along with the surge in COVID cases, there were some aspects of the WNBA’s proposal to begin the season that led to her sitting out the season.

Jones expressed the view that the league’s proposal was not worth the risk of her personal health and safety. She further explained that she felt the proposal could have been much clearer to give the Women’s National Basketball Players’ Association (WNBPA) a better understanding on what they were voting for. 

“It (the proposal) wasn’t really bad but I needed more specifics. One of the things they said was that if we played all 22 of the games, we’d get 100 percent of our salary. But, for some reason if we couldn’t play all 22 games - for instance if a hurricane hit or if players tested positive for COVID, then we would come back and negotiate in good faith. 

“That was one of the things I didn’t like. In good faith is cool and all, but it’s not a definite number. If something happens, we don’t know how much of our salary we’re going to get.

“I would have liked to see a scale where if we play 1-10 games then we get a certain amount of money. If we play one to five games then you get a certain amount of money, make it more solid whereby we as players coming in, could understand what’s going on,” Jones said.

“They were also talking about high-risk players and that they would be able to get their full salary and opt out, but they didn’t really explain what high-risk meant until players started asking around. Then they finally explained that (they are) the ones who are more susceptible to catching COVID-19 would be able to get their full salary after testing and finding out their bodies are at a higher risk. 

“It’s just things like that, I wanted in writing. The proposal was not bad, but I felt we could have voted no as a Players’ Association and gotten the league to give us more specifics and be a bit more accurate with some of the things they wrote about.

“At the end of the day the biggest factor for me, was my health. You can’t spend a check if you’re not alive. Yeah, you’re out there playing and the money may be important for your livelihood, but at the end of the day your health should be the most important thing,” she pointed out.

Jones shared that the WNBPA held a meeting after the proposal was voted on, to which 70 percent of the players voted yes. In that meeting some players then admitted to not reading the proposal “in-depth.” Jones then stated she advised her Sun teammates to vote no before voting in an effort to get the league to provide more information. 

“We had a conversation about it. I’m not saying everyone voted that way because I don’t know how everyone voted, but most players around the league said yes because they saw full salary would be paid. 

“But then we came back as a Players’ Association and a lot of people said if we had this meeting before they would have said no to get more specifics. Hindsight is 20/20, but it was just some things the players felt could have been discussed before a vote,” she further explained. 

Jones made it known that she spoke with the Sun organization and her teammates to let them know first that she would sit out.

Since announcing the decision, the Sun organization has indicated that it fully understood Jones’ stance and acknowledged that she and her teammates have had positive communications.

“All of us are bouncing ideas off of each other, along with feelings and thoughts. We have an idea of who is going to play and who is thinking of not playing. At the end of the day, when I decided, my mind was made up. I reached out to them and let them know. I didn’t want them to feel blind-sided because at the end of the day, my teammates are the most important thing and the whole organization as well, because without them we can’t do anything.

“A lot of people may feel they agree with the decision but financially they can’t really make that choice right now. I’m actually lucky where I am right now with the team I play for overseas, where I could actually make this choice for my health. It’s definitely a privilege.”

In the meantime, Jones looks forward to spending time with her family and working out. She stated that working on different aspects of her game is something players like her in the WNBA do not get a real chance of doing. Most WNBA players spend summers playing professionally in European/Asian basketball leagues.  

“WNBA players, we never get an offseason and just add skills to our game without worrying about the next game that’s coming up. Basically, I’m looking forward to the freedom to move how I want to move, and, become a better person and player.”

Since Jones’ decision to opt out, two other WNBA players made the same decision. Washington Mystics’ Natasha Cloud and LaToya Sanders also decided on Monday they would sit out, according to a Bleacher Report article. While Cloud will be focusing on her social activism, Sanders believed sitting out is in the best interest of her health and family. 

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