Rep. Lori Trahan and President Joe Biden both voiced concerns over the gender pay gap in women’s sports this week following Caitlin Clark’s ascension to the WNBA.

Iowa’s Caitlin Clark poses for a photo with WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert after being selected first overall by the Indiana Fever during the 2024 WNBA draft. Adam Hunger/AP

On Monday, the Indiana Fever selected Caitlin Clark with the number one pick in the WNBA draft, capping years of building excitement around the former Iowa guard and potentially signaling a new era for professional women’s basketball. 

Clark’s historic run at Iowa and her dynamic skills are helping draw more fans than ever to the sport. But with that extra attention comes a new realization for many: WNBA players don’t just make less money than their NBA counterparts, they make significantly less. 

Clark’s base salary will be just $76,535 as a rookie. The first player picked in this year’s NBA draft is expected to make about $10.5 million

The discrepancies have caused a wave of consternation on social media, and that hubbub made its way to the halls of power this week. 

U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan, the only former Division I woman athlete in Congress, said that the pay gap is “outrageous” in a post on X this week. She called for action to “dismantle” the gender pay gap. 

For Caitlin Clark to make only a FRACTION of what her male counterparts make is beyond outrageous. 

It’s 2024. The time to dismantle the gender pay gap and give women equal opportunity was years ago. Let’s get it done NOW.https://t.co/khvBX6wuiM

— Lori Trahan (@RepLoriTrahan) April 18, 2024

President Joe Biden also weighed in. 

“But right now we’re seeing that even if you’re the best, women are not paid their fair share,” Biden said in a post on X. “It’s time that we give our daughters the same opportunities as our sons and ensure women are paid what they deserve.”

Clark’s rise and her battles with other recently-drafted stars like LSU’s Angel Reese and South Carolina’s Kamilla Cardoso coincided with a massive spike in viewership for the NCAA women’s tournament. A staggering 18.9 million viewers tuned into the championship game, where Cardoso’s Gamecocks held off Clark’s Hawkeyes, according to ESPN

A peak of 24.1 million viewers was recorded during the game’s final 15 minutes. It was the most-viewed women’s college basketball game ever, and the most-viewed college basketball game ESPN has ever shown, regardless of gender. It drew more viewers than any other non-football annual sporting event across all networks since 2019. The audience was up 90% year-over-year, according to ESPN. 

That momentum carried over into the WNBA draft, which drew 2.446 million viewers, a 307% increase in viewership over last year. After the Fever selected Clark, the franchise’s ticket prices soared. The Fever finished last season with a dismal 13 wins and 27 losses. Now, the top 10 most expensive WNBA games for the upcoming season are all Fever games, per Forbes

Could this translate into higher salaries for WNBA players as a whole? That could be determined in 2025, when the league is set to negotiate a new TV deal with broadcast partners. More fans and a crop of young, bankable superstars would likely give the league a better position at the negotiating table. The WNBA is coming off its most-watched regular season in 21 years and had its highest total attendance in 13 years. The WNBA and NBA currently have a joint deal with Disney’s ESPN. WNBA officials are reportedly hoping to unbundle some of the media rights from the NBA, with a goal of receiving up to $100 million a season from broadcast partners.

Also in 2025, WNBA players are expected to opt out of their current collective bargaining agreement. In doing so, they will be able to negotiate a different revenue sharing agreement. Players take home a share of the league revenue, meaning that as the league increases in value, players make more money. 

In the NBA, players can receive 50% of all shared revenue. But in the WNBA, players only get 50% of “incremental revenue,” a term defined as revenue that is above the league’s target for that season. Ultimately, about 40% of all NBA league revenue is going to player salaries, compared to the approximately 10% of league revenue going to player salaries in the WNBA, Vox reported. 

WNBA revenue could be increased by adding more games and teams. The NBA season is currently about twice as long as the WNBA’s. The men’s league has 30 teams compared to the WNBA’s 12. That will soon change, as the WNBA prepares to add two more teams by 2026. Commissioner Cathy Engelbert recently said that she is “pretty confident” in the league’s ability to reach 16 teams by 2028. 

Many WNBA players supplement their incomes by playing overseas during the offseason. Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner was doing just that when she was detained by Russian authorities and held for almost 10 months. In an interview after returning to the U.S., Griner cited the gender pay gap as the reason many go overseas. 

Of course, star players can make extra money through endorsement deals. Clark and Reese had the top two name, image, and likeness (NIL) valuations for women’s basketball players during their college careers, according to the AP. Clark’s previous deal with Nike ended when she left Iowa, but the company is reportedly preparing to offer her a new eight-figure endorsement deal and a signature shoe. 

U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan is calling to “dismantle the gender pay gap” between players in WNBA and NBA. Do you agree?

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