For years WNBA players have publicly complained about their salaries. Like the McRib or pumpkin spice lattes, complaints from female pro-athletes about the money they bring home is something you're bound to periodically hear about from time to time. It was happening when the WNBA first launched and it's still happening today.
Meet Skylar Diggins-Smith - the highest-paid player on the WNBA's Dallas Wings. She's been on the all-star team three times. She's one of the top athletes in her league (but you've still probably never heard of her). She's upset because younger, less accomplished male athletes in the NBA earn more money than her. She also has a hyphen in her last name.
In a recent interview Skylar said, "Players in the NBA get about 50% of the revenue. For women, the percentage is in the twenties. So before we even talk about base salary or anything like that, we don't even get paid the same percentage of the revenue that we bring in, which is kind of unbelievable."
Actually, it's not that unbelievable. Also, Skylar's math is wrong (I'll explain why in a minute).
Don't get me wrong, I agree, WNBA salaries are just a fraction of what NBA players earn. There is plenty of evidence to prove this point. No one is arguing with that statement, but regardless of how many zeroes are in your average WNBA paycheck, it's still probably too much. Fair is fair - this is true for a laundry list of reasons, but let's start with the fact that the combined earned revenue of the entire WNBA isn't even a fraction of the amount the NBA brings in.
According to Forbes, the average NBA franchise is worth about $1.65 billion. That's per-team.
Meanwhile, a similar report from 2017 says the entire WNBA is worth about $51.5 million. That means (follow me here) the league, as a whole, is worth less than 5% of one NBA team. Now consider that there are 30 NBA teams and only 12 franchises in the WNBA. I'm sure you're starting to understand why female basketball players earn less. This isn't difficult math.
The low revenue generated by the WNBA is mirrored by the TV viewership - the WNBA just doesn't garnish the same TV ratings as good old regular NBA.
According to the NYTimes, in 2016 only about 200,000 people watched WNBA games all season. Compare that to the NBA, which averages about 17 million unique viewers. That's quite a difference in public interest.
Sure, the ladies of professional basketball are not earning the same percentage as the men but, regardless of what share of the profit they're taking home, it doesn't negate the high costs of stadium use, equipment, and the never-ending travel fees associated with maintaining a sports league. The WNBA isn't making enough to cover those expenses, so why do the players deserve more?
Here's an unfortunate fact: more than half of the WNBA teams lose money. Meanwhile, the league benefits greatly from sponsorship deals and additional revenue earned from the men's NBA. If it wasn't for the money taken in by men's professional basketball, there would be no women's league. They'd go bankrupt (so Skylar's estimate about women only earning around 20% of league revenue while men earn 50% is incorrect - that statistic doesn't work for half of the teams who aren't earning a profit).
But here's an idea to help satisfy the ladies of the WNBA: what if, instead of earning a flat-salary, you were offered a 50% net profit-sharing contract (that wasn't subsidized by money from the NBA)?
In other words, what if you were actually paid what you're worth by having your league offer you a percentage of whatever your team earns after expenses and taxes? Without cutting into revenue from the NBA, what if WNBA players got a net-percentage of their league's total profits?
Bottom line- they'd by earning less than what they currently take home. It might be less money, but that would be more "fair", wouldn't it?
If female basketball players want to be paid for their achievements, they need to accept the fact that what they're achieving is not worth a large chunk of change. The WNBA just isn't a valuable commodity.
Regardless of anyone's profession, if an individual is not making the kind of money they'd prefer to be taking home, they only have themselves to blame. You'd think this would be obvious.
Professional athletes are supposed to be role models to kids and young adults, but good role models don't make excuses or blame others for their problems. This might be the WNBA's biggest shortcoming - every so often when they have a rising "star" in their league, that star only makes headlines for complaining about how bad of a job the league management is doing with their paychecks. Who wants to watch someone who complains every time they get in front of a camera and a microphone? Nobody, according to the TV ratings.
So stop your whining - it's not fun to watch. Most people don't have the pleasure of playing a sport for a living and they're unlikely to be enthusiastic about seeing someone on TV who's ungrateful for having that sort of opportunity.
So get over yourselves.
In the words of Tom Hanks, "there's no crying in" um... basketball.