Dear WNBA: Stop complaining about the "pay gap"

It's been a bit of a hot topic both in football (soccer) and in basketball. Women professionals don't get paid anywhere near as much as their men counterparts and while this is mostly just (IMO) a bunch of athletes who are whining on Twitter, they seem to completely ignore some very important aspects about why it is that NBA athletes are paid a MUCH higher salary than almost anyone in the WNBA.


There are a lot of videos out there that show the "low-lights' of WNBA games and honestly, they are pretty funny but people are not allowed to publicly laugh about it because: Sexism or something. In their own private time, I am sure that almost anyone would laugh at these low-lights because they are hilarious. The WNBA is supposed to be the best players in the world but that amount of airballs and hitting of the side of the backboard and missing easy layups is not at all uncommon.

I do not watch the WNBA and unsurprisingly, neither does almost anyone else. When Covid struck and significantly less fans were allowed to attend games, this didn't really affect the WNBA very much because no one was really going to the games to begin with.

After Covid, attendance really took a hit... just kidding, this picture is from 2016

I don't know who we can really blame for this but I'm gonna go ahead and point my finger at Megan Rapinoe who after winning the Women's World Cup started talking a great deal about pay inequality and this naturally spilled over to other sports.

I want to break this down into something that is really simple to understand: If you sell a product and people don't want to buy it, you don't make money. It doesn't matter if this product is a sport, a car, a computer, or a candy bar. It doesn't matter how "good" you think it is, if people don't want it, you don't make money. If you own the company that employs people to create said product, you can not pay them very much money or your company will become a little thing called insolvent - which means you are going out of business.


This chart is hilarious because the difference in revenue is so massive that it is almost impossible to create any sort of chart where the WNBA revenue is even visible. If you wanted that orange section to be bigger, which I am sure some feminists would like it to be, the scale would have to be so huge that in order to view it on a computer screen you would have to scroll up several screens to even see where the NBA's figures end.

The average salary in the NBA is over $6 million. The average salary in the WNBA is much lower and if you look at the chart above and STILL can't understand why that is, then I don't know what to tell you other than you are terrible at math. In fact, the WNBA has been propped up for many years by the NBA with 6 of the 12 teams in the league STILL losing money every year... and this was before Covid. The overall league, if it was an actual business instead of the outreach program that it is, would have died years ago because the overall league was losing over $10 million a year. It has only recently become profitable and $60 million in profits split among 12 teams is NOT a lot of profits when you consider that ESPN pays $25 million alone for the TV rights.


I don't think that any reasonable person can look at this situation and logically claim that WNBA players have any claim whatsoever to higher pay. If you look at the attendance and profitability of the games you will see that yes, there is definitely something nefarious going on here but it isn't what you think: A majority of the WNBA teams would completely shut down if they were not supplemented by the NBA team that is in the same city. The owners won't do this though out of fear of the social-justice mob that would target them for sexism.

This isn't sexism though. Remember back when Ronda Rousey was the highest paid UFC fighter for both men and women? Was that rooted in sexism? Why was she getting paid so much more? It was because she was the biggest draw and her name meant sold out arenas, millions of Pay Per Views and tons of merchandising and advertising opportunities. The average basketball fan on the other hand would probably struggle to name 5 WNBA players not just that are playing now, but that have EVER played.

WNBA player Kelsey Plum, who is actually one of the only reasonable people involved in the equal-pay argument (which by the way she calls "fair pay" instead) recently stated this:

“If the WNBA is always losing money, and if the WNBA is in the red, why do we keep it around?”

I would say that is a very good question Kelsey and perhaps you should remind your fellow players that if anyone actually decides to answer that question honestly and not out of fear of cancel culture, the WNBA will quickly find itself in the same place that the WBL did (Women's Basketball League.) The WBL shut down after 3 years of losing money. The WNBA has been around for more than 20 years now and honestly, these women should be extremely grateful that it exists at all because if you bother to dig into the financials it is really easy to see that this is not a money maker, it is a charity.


I remember getting cheap nosebleed tickets to a WNBA game back in early 2000, just to see what it was. It was so empty that officials were going through the stands begging everybody to get closer and seat almost front row.
So I agree about the salary from the professional teams, it's all based on the revenues generated. Teams are big business, now more than ever.
But you mentioned Megan Rapinoe. The situation was a bit different I think, this was about compensation for playing for the national team. And they did have a point: the women US soccer team often gets more revenues than the men US soccer team.

I have heard that this is the case for WNBA games. There is no reason to purchase front row seats because they are gonna ask everyone to move forward if the game is televised to create the illusion that the stands are packed even though the upper decks aren't even open.

The reason why Rapinoe's comments fall on deaf ears for me as well is because of the fact that the women's World Cup doesn't make nearly as much money as the men's does. If there are even other women's tournaments on a national level I am not even aware of them (such as the Americas Cup or whatever it is called - I'm not really a soccer fan) The differences are similar to the NBA and WNBA disparity in terms of overall money made so asking for more of an amount of money that doesn't exist seems a bit silly to me. I'll look up those stats someday but I am sure this has been discussed in great detail.

If you know differently, I'd be interested in hearing about it :)

Sorry I completely forgot to respond earlier.
Again, if we're looking at professional teams, I agree the disparity is very similar. In France for instance (pretty sure it's the same in US and everywhere), comparing the budget/revenues of the men Ligue 1 with the women Division 1 doesn't even make sense, it's just too far apart.
But coming back to the US national teams, there are multiple audits that found out that most years since 2015, the women team generated more revenues than the men team (for instance in the WSJ:
And yes, the World cup prize money are very different but the men US team didn't even qualify for last World Cup.
But I really digress, your original post was about WNBA and we're on the same page there.

My sister played pro basketball in Europe... they didn't get paid at all.

That was a real eye opening article... thanks for that. In their situation yes, they should bargain to get more pay for the intl matches. I didn't know this stuff because i am not much of a soccer fan.

$71k a year is not a huge amount but it does allow an athlete to be “a pro” i.e. they can focus full time on their careers in that sport.

As with most of these kind of arguments, people tend to miss the point. It’s not blacks worse off than whites or men being given more than women, it’s social inequality full stop that is the problem. In a world where people still starve death in their thousands everyday, the idea of anyone earning $6million a year regardless of their gender or skin colour is farcical

The idea of making 71,000 dollars a year is probably a mystical pipe dream for most of the population in the world, especially to play a sport. Yeah, it is just above average for Americans but lets also keep in mind that this average includes the bench-warmers who probably only see a few minutes of play-time per game.

Charity is the right word and just be grateful you get anything at all.

especially for a league that doesn't make any money. The fact that it is still around is kind of mind-blowing to me... but it is a social justice world that we live in now and logic doesn't matter anymore.