Breanna Stewart Deserves Better

$64,538.

That’s how much Seattle Storm star Breanna Stewart made last year.

Stewart has been a dynamic presence on the court since she made her debut in 2012 as a freshman on UConn’s prolific women’s team, where she won four consecutive NCAA championships and three Player of the Year awards during her time as a Husky.

In 2016 Stewart joined the Seattle Storm, where she was awarded the WNBA Rookie of the Year award in a unanimous decision. Last season, she was named WNBA MVP for the first time, as well as Finals MVP after winning the championship with her team.

Despite clearly dominating in her field, Stewart would have made more money as a mediocre car salesperson. In contrast to Stewart’s salary, the minimum salary in the NBA is $838,464, and only rookies are eligible to make that little. If Stewart were a man, she would be looking forward to a minimum salary of $1,621,415 for the 2019 season, and wouldn’t have needed (and likely wouldn’t have been contractually allowed) to play overseas in the EuroLeague to support herself during the off-season, as most of her WNBA colleagues do.

If Breanna Stewart were a man, she wouldn’t have been in a position to rupture her right Achilles tendon as she did earlier this week while playing for Russia’s Dynamo Kursk, just weeks before starting her 2019 season with the Seattle Storm. Instead, she’ll likely be sitting out the season, a crushing blow to both her team and her scorching-hot career.

Unfair doesn’t even begin to cover it.

This isn’t Stewart’s first time landing on the injured list after an incident overseas. In 2017, she suffered a minor injury to her knee while playing in China. Despite clear risk to her body and career, Stewart, like so many of her fellow players, made the choice to forgo time off and opted to work instead. It was probably not a difficult choice, either: Stewart likely made her Storm salary many times over during her season in Russia.

If something like this happened to reigning NBA MVP James Harden, you can bet that Chris Paul and the National Basketball Players Association would have something to say about it. Rules would be changed, effective as soon as possible, to ensure that this would never happen again. However, it’s a moot point, because Harden made $28.3 million last season and certainly doesn’t need to pick up an extra job to pay the bills.

I’m not here for the argument that WNBA players don’t deserve to earn more because their league isn’t as big of a moneymaker as its male counterpart. It’s recently been estimated that NBA players receive cumulative paychecks worth about 50 percent of league revenues; in contrast, WNBA players earn just 22 percent of their total league revenue.

Breanna Stewart deserves so much better than this, and it’s equally tragic and reprehensible that it takes a devastating injury to the league’s best player before this conversation is taken seriously, but here we are.

So let’s have a serious conversation.

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