Pickleball’s rapid growth may be coming back down to reality.
Major League Pickleball is requesting that players consent to compensation reductions of 40% in return for a reduction of work obligations, according an email sent to players that was obtained by CNBC.
“We have carefully studied the economics of the business and determined that certain changes need to be made to ensure a sustainable and viable business that will not only survive but thrive in 2024 and beyond for the benefit of all stakeholders,” the email reads.
The league’s proposal asks players to reduce their number of annual work days from 200 to 120 and indicates it would cut their salaries proportionally.
“You would be free to monetize the other 245 days on the annual calendar any way you choose – with 100% of any earnings on those days going to you,” the email reads.
Players who do consent will be guaranteed a minimum of 10 slots in PPA events.
The league said it will also cut operational and event-related costs for 2024 and further revealed that it has parted ways with Commissioner Brooks Wiley. It follows another major executive departure, with founder Steve Kuhn resigning in October.
News of the pay reductions was first reported by the Dink Pickleball. Both MLP and PPA declined to comment.
It comes as professional pickleball has seen rapid growth in nearly every category and as Major League Pickleball and Professional Pickleball Association are on the cusp of signing an on-again, off-again, on-again merger agreement.
As part of the pro sport’s whirlwind rise, the leagues offered huge contracts to lure players to their respective leagues.
The MLP email notes the PPA has also been communicating with its players and has made similar requests for player compensation reductions.
Reactions have been mixed among professional pickleball players.
“Aren’t there collusion/ anti- trust issues with this?” asked Jillian Braverman in a post on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter, following the league-wide email. “We need to leverage collective bargaining ASAP.”
Two-time Major League Pickleball champion Thomas Wilson, however, said players are paid “more than fairly even with the cuts.”
“I think most of the players seem to be on board with moving forward together to make it all work for everyone,” Wilson told CNBC.
Laura Vossberg Gainor, founder of a pickleball marketing agency, said the future of the sport is still bright as she’s watched players reap the rewards of pickleball’s growth.
“The surge in the value of their personal brands has intensified the off-court rivalry among brands vying to secure top players for product endorsements,” she said.