WNBA Superstar Speaks Out on Shocking Pay Disparity with NBA

With a hyper-focus on the April 15 WNBA Draft due to Caitlin Clark entering the pros, there was enhanced debate regarding the league’s comparatively low pay to the NBA.

Many WNBA activists took to social media to raise their frustrations at the paltry pay earned by WNBA players compared to their NBA counterparts. Heated discussions took place comparing 2024 WNBA No. 1 draft pick Caitlin Clark’s first-year salary of $76,535 compared to the 2023 NBA No. 1 draft pick Victor Wembanyama’s initial salary of $12.16 million.

The WNBA has a long ways to go to secure the kind of financial resources that will bring league player salaries into the same realm of the universe. It is hoped that Clark can lead a surge in popularity for the women’s professional game like she did for women’s collegiate competition.

One of the WNBA’s superstars, New York Liberty forward Breanna Stewart, said pay disparity is not an easy fix.

WNBA’s Stewart Remains Hopeful League Pay Will Increase

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Stewart, a long-time star for the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, signed with the Liberty prior to last season. She currently earns $205,000 a year on average. While that’s a handsome sum to most civilians, it is chicken feed compared what comparative NBA players earn. The top 10 NBA power forwards all earn at least at least $20 million a season.

While she believes that the WNBA is trending in the right direction, she is patient while acknowledging that the league has a long way to go. She told People Magazine:

“You can talk about opportunities for pensions and charters and all these things, but it’s not something that’s going to change overnight, and it’s the mix between us continuing to be great on the court and taking advantage of the things happening off the court.”

Stewart accepts the basic premise that the WNBA is still a relatively new league when compared to other more established professional sports circuits in the U.S. The WNBA began play in 1997. Comparatively, the NBA has been around since 1946. The NFL and MLB have been around much longer than that, founded in 1920 and 1876, respectively. Steward told People:

“I think that the changes have been happening. The WNBA has been around for 28 years, which is really small compared to any other league in professional sports.”

NBA Tallies Staggering Revenue Compared to WNBA

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According to Forbes Magazine, the NBA brings in around $2.6 billion a year through television deals with ESPN/ABC and TNT. Comparatively, Front Office Sports reports that the WNBA only logs $65 million a year through media deals with ABC/ESPN, CBS, ION and Amazon.

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert has gone on record saying that her league is growing, but needs to grow responsibly. She takes into account lessons learned when the league grew too fast in the late 90s/early 2000s when rapid expansion led to a number of teams folding or moving. Engelbert told People:

“People ask why we aren’t in the same place as the men’s league…What will help is expanding the number of teams. I haven’t been shy about talking about expansion. You’ve got to build an economic model to fund everything they want; higher pay, travel benefits, etc. It’s important our players understand where we get our revenue, where all the expenses are going and their questions around that. We’re trying to change the narrative — that we are a sports, media and entertainment property, growth property, that will deploy this capital and marketing stars, building rivalries and globalizing the game.”

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Tom Carothers is a sportswriter with more than 20 years of experience covering sports at the high school, collegiate, and professional levels. Still longing for the return of his Minnesota North Stars, he has a high pain tolerance as a big fan of the Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Browns, and Tottenham Hotspur. 

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