In recent years, the pay gap between NBA and WNBA players has sparked much controversy. The average NBA player currently earns an annual salary of $6.4 million, with the superstars getting paid $20-30 million.
This is a big stretch from the WNBA whose average salary is $71,000, with the highest paid players earning around $100,000. This sounds unfair, but the salaries reflect the money their respective leagues bring in each year.
The leagues make money through television deals, merchandise, viewership and ticket sales. In all of these revenue categories, the WNBA’s numbers are massively lower compared to the NBA.
Taking television viewership per game into consideration, the NBA quintuples the amount of viewers with the NBA averaging $1.28 million per game in this last 2017-2018 season, while the WNBA averaged $247,000 per game.
These viewership numbers directly impact the salaries of the players in their respective leagues. More views lead to a higher-valued television contract, leading to a higher pay for the players.
Another portion of league income comes from merchandise. The NBA surpases the WNBA by millions of dollars in merchandise sales since the WNBA was founded in 1996.
Some people think WNBA players are treated unfairly by their organization because their leagues pay them 20% per year. Meanwhile, NBA players get a total of about 50% of their league’s revenue from each season.
For example, David Berri who wrote an article about the WNBA and the growing wage gap between the NBA, provides a suggestion that WNBA should be equally paid 50% of their leagues’ revenue like the NBA.
However, this solution negatively affects the players and their sustainability. Unfortunately, the WNBA has never had a profitable season in its history.
It is also estimated that half of all WNBA teams are losing money every season.
One concern is the impact of putting 50% aside, since giving 20% of yearly revenues barley keep the league afloat. WNBA teams also struggle to put fans in seats for the games. They recorded their lowest average attendance in history this past 2017-2018 season and numbers are steadily declining each year.
Some WNBA stars have had to play overseas in the offseason to remain financially stable, despite the fact that they are some of the best female athletes on the planet. It is a sad truth that WNBA players can’t be equally represented in their salaries to NBA players and it is something that requires change before it happens.
It comes down to public viewership and how much popularity the WNBA can grow for itself. If it can bring in NBA profits, then it can afford to provide players with NBA-type salaries. Until then, the WNBA’s players will be unable to earn the same amount as NBA’s.