Ballin’ on a budget

WNBA players seek equity in their salaries — a change 27 years in the making


Clarion photo Wendell Cruz

Aces players celebrate a win.

The pay gap between men and women is no new thing. Women have constantly been seen not as equals, but less. Women’s jobs are never taken as seriously, and businesses centered around women tend to make less than men’s.

This idea is especially reflected in women’s sports. Not only do women’s sports have an extremely negative stigma surrounding them, but the women who are in these leagues make much less than men who do the same sport.

However, viewership and support around women’s sports is growing. This should be reflected in the salaries, but in many cases, like in the WNBA, it isn’t.

The average base salary in the WNBA is $120,600 while the average base salary in the NBA is $5.4 million. Women are getting paid so much less than men for the same sport in equally reputable leagues. To get drafted into the NBA or WNBA means dedicating your entire life to basketball, and following it into adulthood as a professional.

So why is the pay gap so massive?

Although the two leagues are often seen as mirror images of one another, the difference in revenue is massive. In the 2021/22 season the NBA generated around $10 billion dollars, while the WNBA generated only $60 million.

There are a lot of reasons for this, including the previously mentioned stigma around women’s sports and the misogyny that follows. It’s hard to find any videos of women playing basketball without negative comments comparing the players to men or making fun of everything. Women’s basketball is a joke to many, which makes it extremely hard for the WNBA to make money, since that affects how many people buy tickets, watch games, and other capital-raising methods.

Another large reason the league makes less money is exposure, since exposure is another big problem in women’s sports. Little to no channels on TV play women’s basketball, and on social media it’s rare to see any clips or moments from WNBA games compared to the NBA.
In 2022 the NBA championship game had 12.4 million views, while the WNBA championship game had a mere 412,000 viewers in comparison.

However, women’s basketball is gaining popularity. College women’s basketball had a surplus of viewers in the recent 2023 playoffs, averaging 257,000 viewers, which is 27 percent higher than the 2022 playoffs.

The WNBA is also seeing this increase of fans. In 2022 the WNBA semifinals had a 45 percent increase in viewers, with the first round also up 50 percent.

Even with this growth of popularity, WNBA players continue to be underpaid and underfunded. The NBA is a much wealthier organization than the WNBA, which allows them to have more money that they can spend on salaries. Many people argue that less revenue is the reason WNBA salaries are so much smaller, however, players in the WNBA aren’t arguing for equal pay as men, but an equal percentage of revenue. NBA players in the 2019/22 season were paid over 50% of the earned revenue, while WNBA players were only paid around 25%.

Because of this drastic difference in payment, lots of women basketball players can’t support themselves financially just by playing in the WNBA. Most players in the league make extra money by playing overseas. Many people may be aware of this after the Brittany Griner situation in 2022, where Griner was arrested and detained in Russia after traveling there in order to make money during the off season. Griner and many others in the WNBA have to play in other countries to make up for the money they don’t make during the regular season in the US.

Even though the WNBA makes much less money than the NBA, the players deserve an equal percentage of revenue. As viewership of the WNBA continues to grow, so will the revenue generated. The amount of money players make needs to reflect that growth. If not, playing in the WNBA may not even be possible, as players won’t make enough money to support their livelihood.