There has been discussions in the basketball community as of late, and individuals from both leagues agree: There is a glaring pay gap between WNBA and NBA players.
In a society that continues to preach gender equality, professional basketball leagues and executives are missing the mark.
WNBA players are making significantly less than their counterparts in the NBA.
The top paid player in the NBA during the 2017-18 season, Stephen Curry, made $34.7 million. The league’s most valuable player, James Harden, made $28.3 million. In his final season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron James made $33.3 million, according to basketballinsiders.com, a website that compiles team salaries based on contracts announced by media members.
In comparison, the 2018 WNBA MVP, Breanna Stewart made $56,793 in base salary this season. The figure is based on her draft position and the rookie scale in the WNBA collective bargaining agreement.
To put this into perspective, James signed a massive deal this offseason with the Los Angeles Lakers, making him one of the highest paid NBA players. James inked a four-year, $153.3 million contract, according to Klutch Sports Group, the agency that represents him.
He will make $38.3 million in the 2018-19 season. According to ESPN, James will make approximately $467,000 per game and $117,000 per quarter.
James will make nearly five times the sum of the highest paid WNBA player makes in a season, in just a single game.
Players in the NBA who sign for the league minimum, which is $582,180 according to Basketball Insiders, are still making six times as much as the elite women players. Players who weren’t good enough to make the NBA or wanted to pursue a career overseas are given a starting salary of $100,000, according to Forbes.
The starting salaries in the WNBA is a mere $50,000.
Even when players are cut from NBA teams, their contracts are still guaranteed.
Charel Allen, Cal State Fullerton women’s basketball assistant coach, had a taste of the professional level and signed a rookie contract. She was drafted in 2008 by the Sacramento Monarchs.
Allen recalled her draft experience and was thankful for the opportunity to get paid to play the game she loved.
“Rookies are on certain contracts wherever you get drafted. Third round was a certain amount, second round, first round was split into two. Top five made a certain amount and then the rest of the first round made a certain amount. So, it’s a gap, but like I said, I can’t complain about getting paid $40,000 just for five months,” Allen said.
So, the question remains the same: Why are WNBA players not getting paid more? Despite playing nearly half the games as the NBA, players put the same toll on their bodies and are still expected to produce quality content for viewers to enjoy.
Allen said it may be due to the lack of fan support and that some women choose to play year-round overseas.
“Honestly, I believe it is because we don’t have the support from the fans. It’s hard to get fans to support basketball when it’s not in season, technically, because they play in the summer. But, I think that plays a big factor with the girls playing overseas where they make more money. They are playing year round,” Allen said.
Some NBA players have joined the discussion and voiced their views. Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard took to social media to share his stance on the issue, while Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker bought 500 tickets to a Phoenix Mercury game earlier this year to show his support.
Isaiah Thomas, Denver Nuggets guard, penned a personal letter to The Players’ Tribune early last week. He talked about how the WNBA gets overlooked by fans, and that they need to give these women a chance.
WNBA players aren’t the only ones affected by low pay. Young women who are actively trying to pursue a career in basketball may have to put their dreams in the rearview mirror and focus on a career that provides them with more stability.
However, Allen seems optimistic about the future of the WNBA and hopes the women continue to voice their opinions.
“I’d say give it time, as long as the women keep voicing their opinions about how they’re underpaid, it’s only going to draw more attention,” Allen said.