If we were to compare the salaries of players between the NBA and the WNBA, it’s safe to say that an average WNBA player is getting paid only a fraction of even the lowest paid NBA player.
The recent No.1 overall drafted by the Las Vegas Aces, Jackie Young, who had an outstanding collegiate career at Notre Dame will only be getting paid at an estimated $75 000 for the 2019-2020 season. While from the 2018 NBA draft, DeAndre Ayton, the No. 1 overall, was paid over $8 million for only his first year in the league.
The WNBA is still a young league and has the potential to someday make the same amount as NBA players do today. However, at the moment, the WNBA makes only a meagre profit. The league has come up with ways to earn some extra money over these past few years. Back in 2009, the league allowed sponsor logos on their jerseys even though all other major league sports teams, with the exception of soccer, had agreed on keeping their jerseys advertisement free. When the NBA eventually allowed sponsor logos in 2017, the WNBA added a second.
With their sponsorship revenue getting larger, the league has also come up with another way to increase their earnings. Back in 2014, the league launched a campaign which would target the LGBTQ market. After a successful campaign, the league would see an increase of fans in attendance and would later find out that 25% of Lesbians have watched a WNBA game.. This campaign is what you could consider a “high-risk high-reward” operation. Of course, the risk being that this new campaign could scare away most of the fans. With the league’s increase of overall viewers, their marketing departments also benefit from it improving their sales.
The players aren’t asking to be paid the same amount as NBA players are. But they are asking for a greater share from the league’s revenues. Sue Bird, a guard for the Seattle Storm stated, “Look, we’re not over here saying we should be paid the same as the men. We’re realistic. We understand that this is a business and that their revenue is insane compared to ours. But there is a bias that exists.” The NBA currently splits around 50% of its revenues to give to the players’ salaries while WNBA players get less than 25%. Of course, the league can’t share much if they make only $60 million in revenues compared to the NBA, which in the 2018 season made $7.4 billion.
With the money players are receiving, they have no other choice but to travel overseas during the offseason to help make ends meet. As a result, the athletes are playing all year with very little rest making them prone to injuries. Reigning WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart made $56,795 for the 2018 season, plus an added bonus of $38,525 for winning the league title. She went overseas to continue working; however, in the championship game of the Euroleague just before her return back to Seattle, she suffered a ruptured achilles tendon which would prevent her from playing the upcoming WNBA season. More than half of WNBA’s players play overseas and to round out their earnings.
Despite how brutal it sounds, the WNBA players will just have to keep playing overseas until the league makes sufficient money to be able to give more to its players. In the meantime, both the league and individual players will keep looking for ways to make the game more lucrative.