Money Moves: Women’s equal pay in sports

WNBA players want equal pay, can they get it?

~Anna Thomas, Staff Writer~

Within the past several years, the push for equal pay among the sexes has taken off. 

And with it has come the conversation of fair pay in the sports world. 

The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) has been one point of interest in the debates as WNBA players don’t get paid nearly as much as men do.

This is partially because they get significantly less funding than the NBA. 

But why? What’s really going on with the financial side of professional basketball? 

Let’s take a look at the numbers to try begin putting the situation in perspective. 

According to a 2018 Forbes article, The Business of Being a WNBA Player, the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) minimum salary is $528,180. The WNBA maximum veteran salary is $71,635. 

So, a rookie in the NBA is making more than a long-term player in the WNBA. But the phrase “long-term” is a relative one.

The WNBA is only entering its 23rd official season, making it a fairly new association. 

Last August, The Conversation published an article saying that “The NBA didn’t draw crowds [the size of the WNBA’s] until its 26th season,” implying that the WNBA is on track to popularity and financial prosperity. 

However, the nature of that statistic points out an important thought: women are entering an already sports-focused world, meaning sports fanatics have already been established. 

Why does the WNBA have to start from scratch?

In other words, why don’t existing NBA fans (or basketball fans in general) turn to the WNBA for entertainment? 

Perhaps this issue tells us something about our society.

 Do people watch more of the NBA because it gets more funding? 

Or does it get more funding because people watch it? 

Let’s go back to the numbers for a second. WNBA salaries equate to 22 percent of the organization’s revenue whereas the NBA turns 50 percent of its revenue into players’ salaries. 

So, the argument around the unequal pay of female basketball players isn’t so black and white. 

The WNBA simply cannot afford to turn 50 percent of their profit into players’ salaries. 

It’s important to remember that the realm of professional sports is a business.

 The more money the company makes, the more the employees get paid. So, there isn’t one simple solution to the issue. 

On the strictly financial side of things, the WNBA works to get more funding in ways such as the jersey sponsorships. 

Although it may reflect the financial inferiority of the WNBA, having those advertisements on the players’ jerseys is actually greatly helping their case. 

The goal, however, is to eventually match the NBA’s profitability without a logo across the players’ chests. 

Now when we turn to popularity and overall fan base, the conversation gets even less clear. 

Fans just seem to prefer men’s sports, and they haven’t necessarily been encouraged to care about women’s athletics. 

According to an article published by The Conversation, over  95 percent of sports media coverage is focused on men. 

So, the root of the issue is much deeper than some may have thought.

The funding and pay of WNBA players (and other professional women athletes) is a multi-layered issue. 

The good news is, it’s being talked about. 

And although the numbers aren’t near where most WNBA fans and players would prefer, they seem to be slowly climbing.

But, will male and female athletes ever be treated, paid, or watched as true equals? 

If so, how long will it take?

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