A’ja Wilson and Kayla McBride, both players in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), are just two of many players that have been making a stink about how “little” they are payed. This topic was raised when JeBron James’ new $154 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers was made public during the 2018 offseason. Wilson and McBride both think the WNBA’s players deserve more than 20% of the league’s total revenue.
As I have pointed out before, the WNBA only made $52.4 million during the 2017-18 season. This number includes ticket sales, television contracts, and possibly the subsidy that the NBA bestows upon them each season in order to help cover their operating costs. Twenty percent of $52.4 million is roughly $10-$11 million, this is then split between every WNBA player in amounts dependent upon skill, tenure, and a number of other factors. In comparison, the NBA made $7.4 billion during the 2017-18 season and its players are entitled to 50% of that, which is $3.7 billion. The reason the men receive such a high percentage is that their league’s total revenue is enough that the association and team owners still have plenty left over after the players take their cut. The WNBA, however, can’t even afford to pay all of its operating costs and therefore pays out a lower percentage to players.
In all truth, the WNBA players should be happy that they are making as much as they are. They have an average salary of $75,000, which is higher than the national average salary of a person with an advanced degree ($72,824). Now consider the fact they play just 34 basketball games per season, which is less than half of what the men play (82), their season is just a few months long, and their games are eight minutes shorter than the men’s. Even with offseason practicing these women are earning full-time pay on part-time work. Again, this is all while the league fails to turn a profit. A failing business is paying out an average salary of $75,000 a year to part-time workers.
One of the reasons the WNBA is currently incapable of supporting itself is because they simply aren’t selling enough tickets to games. The average game attendance during the 2017-18 season was just 6,721, which is an all-time low for the league. The league also struggles to pull in television viewers despite appearing on both ESPN and ABC, only managing an average of around 266,000 per game. This means that their contracts with the television networks aren’t worth as much money.
Based upon the above information, it is ludicrous to compare WNBA salaries to NBA salaries. It is unrealistic that the players be paid any more than they already are because their current level of pay is already unrealistic due to the fact the league doesn’t make a profit. It sounds to me like many of these women either don’t understand basic economics or are just so busy feeling entitled that they don’t take the time to look at the situation honestly. Either way, it will likely be a rude awakening for them as NBA commissioner Adam Silver has recently expressed that he thought the WNBA would have proven to be more viable by this point. Could changes be on the horizon?