By: Ariana Bellio
The salary gap between women's national leagues and men’s national leagues has always been a sore topic within the sports community, as women have always made significantly less money than their male counterparts. In basketball, specifically, the women's “superleague” salary, which is only given to the best of the best, is around 220,ooo dollars; in the men's league the average salary is 7,900,000 dollars. This glaring salary gap has been an issue for a long time, but nothing has been done about it.
The wage gap between men and women is not exclusive to the sports field; in the United States, women tend to make 83 cents for every dollar a man will earn in the same position. This is a result of deep-rooted misogyny within our society and the misconception that women cannot perform to the same level as a man would. Although this wage gap seems to exist in seemingly every profession, it is particularly egregious in the United States’ national basketball leagues.
In many cases, women’s salaries will be 83% of the salaries men make working the same job. In the WNBA, however, the best players make less than 3% of what an average male player will make in the NBA. Compared to the highest-paid NBA player, the highest-paid WNBA player makes less than 0.5% of his annual salary. Based on these numbers, the highest-paid woman in the WNBA would have to play for over 208 years just to make the amount of money her male counterpart would make in one year. When considering these statistics, the outrageous difference in salaries is hard to ignore, yet the gap has existed for years and any attempts to make changes have been futile.
So, why does this salary discrepancy exist? Many argue that the salary gap exists as a result of the revenue generated by ticket sales in the two leagues. While the NBA is extremely popular amongst and can often boast very high attendance at games, the same cannot be said for the WNBA. It can be argued that the financial resources needed for funding WNBA player salaries is much leaner, resulting in lower pay; tickets to WNBA games are cheaper and there is often a much lower turnout as compared to that at NBA games. These factors undoubtedly play a significant role in the salary decisions made for each league.
While popularity and game attendance could certainly explain the wage gap, it remains that the difference in pay forces WNBA players to live a much more modest lifestyle than NBA players. Some players have even reported that they are playing internationally during their off-season to supplement their regular season income. It is important to note, however, that, while WNBA players make much less than the men, the average salary still allows for a comfortable lifestyle, so playing during the off-season may not be simply to increase the amount of disposable income each player can enjoy.
In my opinion, it makes sense why WNBA salaries are so much lower than NBA salaries. The league is nowhere near as popular as the NBA, resulting in lower ticket sales and a smaller pool of funds to pull from for salaries. However, just because it makes sense, doesn’t mean it's right. The women’s team puts in the same amount of effort as the men's team, but gets a fraction of the reward. In order to ensure that female athletes get their fair share, their management must do something to better promote and encourage people to go to their games and fund their events.