WNBA: A’ja Wilson & The WNBA’s Pay Gap Problem

Las Vegas Aces rookie A’ja Wilson is certainly making a name for herself, not only in Vegas, but the WNBA as a whole.

Drafted first last year, A’ja Wilson was recently named Rookie of the Month for July and is a strong candidate for Rookie of The Year. All it takes is one quick google search to understand why. To give you an idea, though, performances such as her 25 points and 6 assists in a win over Seattle on June 19th and her 29 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals in huge win over the Sparks on June 29th are just two small examples. If you don’t want to take my word for it, check out these two highlight videos:

Wilson’s success in the WNBA is not all that much of a surprise as she was a star player for the South Carolina Gamecocks. In fact, Wilson is credited with leading the USC to their first NCAA championship in 2017.  When asked about her success, though, Wilson has hinted that it’s not coming as easily in the WNBA as it did in college. In fact, in a recent interview Wilson stated that, “the easiest thing was getting on a plane and moving out here…” She also noted that it is challenging to stay mentally focused when playing against “high-level competition.” It may be a challenge, but she is clearly handling it well.

The professional court is not the only place she’s making a name for herself. Step off the court and you’ll find that A’ja Wilson is also making a name for herself there as well, specifically on twitter. Remember a few weeks ago when LeBron James signed that crazy $154-million four-year contract with the Lakers? Well, this is what Wilson had to say:

 

 

Wilson received a lot of support for that tweet, but she also received a lot of slack. Some followers argued that the WNBA does not bring in nearly as much revenue as the NBA so of course they don’t make as much. Others argued that the WNBA needs to play more games per season to be worthy of that much money. But then…then came those who tried to argue that WNBA players are simply not worthy of NBA-level salaries.

Ahem.

Let’s break this down a bit, shall we?

Does the NBA bring in more revenue than the WNBA? They absolutely do. No one can deny that. And until that gap is closed, WNBA players are not going to make as much as NBA players as the WNBA product (product, not player) is not worth as much as the NBA product. That’s basic business economics. Will playing a longer season help increase product value? Most likely! As will bringing more games to more prominent channels. But to say that WNBA players are not worthy of NBA-level salaries? HA! Fools! Did you not watch those clips above? Have you not seen a game? Folks, A’ja Wilson is just as talented as LeBron.

Yeah, I said it.

What makes this controversy even worse (from my perspective, at least) is this: according to an article by Forbes from 2017, the WNBA is actually doing relatively well from a revenue perspective. How well? Well, no one seems to know exactly, but well enough to be paying their players more than they are now, which, by the way, is 25% of their revenue. Oh in case you are wondering, the NBA pays their players…wait for it…50% of revenue.

25%

To give you some additional context on how poorly WNBA players are paid: the average salary for a veteran WNBA player is $76,000/season. As Wilson stated in one of her tweet responses, some NBA players make a lot more for sitting on the bench all season than a star WNBA player.

So, even if the WNBA was bringing in as much or close to as much revenue as the NBA, we’d still be having this conversation and that is absolutely disgusting.

None of what I just wrote is news to A’ja Wilson and her teammates, hence Wilson’s tweet. But will it be enough to change things? Well, Wilson is having one of the best rookie seasons in the history of the league. If they hope to keep attracting talented players like Wilson, they should at least open a dialogue, yes?

What do you think? How can the WNBA fix this gap? Tell us in the comments!

Image source: SB Nation

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