Go back to home page of Unsolicited Advice from Tiffany B. Brown

Show them the money

WNBA secondary logo. It features the 'logo woman', a silhouette of a woman shooting a layup, and blocky sans-serif font that reads W N B A

The WNBA is amazing. I hope they don't send me a takedown notice for using their logo without permission. I guess we'll find out when I get the notice?

I thought we went through a period of shock and awe about WNBA salaries when Brittney Griner was arrested. I was wrong. Apparently everyone is suddenly very surprised to learn that Caitlin Clark is going to earn $76,535 from the WNBA in her rookie season.

Why are WNBA salaries so low? Two huge reasons: the revenue split according to the collective bargaining agreement with the player's association, and small television and streaming contracts.

But there's a third, ginormous reason: men hold the money and men invest in men. As sports economist David Berri put it in Slate magazine's Women’s Basketball Could Be Huge. Will Men Let It?.

“Men get investment even if there’s no reason to do it, and women do not,” said David Berri, a sports economist and professor of economics at Southern Utah University. “Men invest in men’s sports because they want to be involved in it. And when it comes to women’s sports, they’re like, ‘Can I see your financial statement?’ ”

Part of the reason that the WNBA's season starts in the summer is so that team owners wouldn't have to compete with European league salaries. Women could — even 30 years ago — play overseas and earn six-figure salaries. Yet here in the United States, women earn less than most entry-level software engineers despite being more talented at their career than most software engineers are at theirs.

What the league needs is investment. The W (and women's basketball more broadly) needs television executives to care enough to broadcast their games and pay fairly for broadcast rights. It needs sponsors to see it as a viable generator of visibility and attention. Perhaps most importantly: it needs deep-pocketed owners who are willing and able to put their money on the line, just as they do for MLS and the money-losing teams of the NBA.

My hope here is two-fold.

  1. I hope the WNBPA opts out of its current collective bargaining agreement in 2025 and negotiates a better revenue split. (Did you know that players don't get a percentage of their jersey revenue?)
  2. I hope that their next media deal brings in way more than the paltry-ass $60 million that their current deal pays.

I want us, as a culture, to truly value women by showing them the money. Invest in women's sports (and women-founded businesses, while I'm at it), and pay them what they're worth.

Attend a WNBA game or subscribe to League Pass

The 2024 WNBA season begins May 3. I hope you live near a city with a team and get to a game this season. You can also watch WNBA games on its League Pass streaming service. It's $34.99 per year.