There has been a lot of discussion lately about the wage gap between NBA and WNBA players. The argument has taken place for a while now, but the conversation started to ramp up a few months ago when A’ja Wilson tweeted about Lebron James and his new contract.
Wilson essentially compared Lebron’s contract to her own, and based on her request for a million dollars, it appears that she doesn’t understand how the business side of the WNBA works. First off, when comparing the two leagues, the NBA generates $7.4B in annual revenue while the WNBA is only making $25MM. That’s an enormous difference. And with approximately 150 WNBA players across all teams, the league simply does not have the money to be paying its employees “a M.”
To go further, the $25MM spread evenly across 150 players would be almost $167K per player. That’s if we exclude coaches, arena staff, the marketing teams, etc. So clearly, a $1MM salary is out of the question for WNBA players.
When accessing demand, a lot can be said for why the WNBA doesn’t generate as much revenue as the NBA. From a fans perspective, I believe that the NBA is far more entertaining. If you consider every fundamental of the game, whether it’s ball-handling, passing, shooting, dunking, etc., NBA players generally are more skilled.
Put simply, there isn’t a wage gap, but rather a skill gap. And as much as people want to claim the wage gap in professional basketball is about sexism, it’s really about the lack of entertainment that the WNBA provides to basketball fans. Explained further: WNBA players aren’t performing at a level that is entertaining enough, which is why basketball fans don’t feel the need to watch their games.
A random twitter user brought up this skill set / entertainment argument to A’ja, stating that she is nowhere close to the level of a basketball player that Lebron is. A’ja then had this response.
Wilson responded, with her argument stating that bench players in the NBA are earning more than her. The problem with her statement is that a bench player in the NBA is 10X better than a star WNBA player. Wilson shouldn’t be comparing her salary to anyone in the NBA. I realize the skill set comparison is based on observation opposed to tangible facts, but I mean come on? The difference between NBA and WNBA is night and day.
With that said, I’m not saying WNBA players are bad athletes. I’ve seen regular guys on twitter claiming they could beat a WNBA player one on one. I think that’s pretty extreme. But I do think it’s insane for someone like Brittney Griner to claim that she can beat Demarcus Cousins one on one. (Yeah that happened)
The truth is that the level of talent in the WNBA is not up to par with the NBA. If WNBA athletes were as talented as NBA athletes, don’t you think they would have more viewership? Nobody watches the WNBA because the skill level doesn’t come close to the NBA. As a result, it is this skill gap between the two leagues that has created a difference in wages. It is not a case of sexism.
Despite this, even the WNBA President believes that sexism has played a big part saying that, “People do not believe women can be superb professional athletes.” I don’t think this is necessarily the case, seeing as the gap in viewership between male and female professional tennis and golf is much slimmer than basketball. And to give an example, Serena Williams is the 51st highest paid athlete in the world, demonstrating that there is a demand for female athletic talent.
It really comes down to the entertainment factor. So how can the WNBA make things more entertaining? I’m all for WNBA players getting paid more, but the league needs to start making more money first. ESPN recently had Breanna Stewart, the WNBA’s 2018 first overall pick, as one of their guests on the show. During the conversation, Tracy McGrady suggested to Stewart that lowering the hoops would make the WNBA more entertaining. He explained that “To have women dunking on other women would bring more excitement to that game.”
As a fan of basketball, I completely agree with Tracy. I think dunking brings a lot of attention to the NBA, so who’s to say it wouldn’t have the same affect on the WNBA? Breanna Stewart wasn’t very open to his suggestion, and who know if lowering the hoops would ever actually happen. But the WNBA needs to change something. If players like A’ja Wilson want to get paid more, they have to find a way to make the league more entertaining.