Women Deserve Equal Pay In Sports

A few days ago, I posted a graphic comparing the $338,056 four-year contract offered by the WNBA to all-time Division I leading scorer Caitlin Clark this year and the $55 million deal Victor Wembanyama, the number one draft pick in the NBA, received last year.

Predictably, some people – mainly men – took the opportunity to rationalize the salary discrepancy away as the “natural order of things.” This happens pretty much every time that this kind of discrepancy is pointed out. And I thought I’d take a few moments to address some of the more common arguments against equal pay in sports.

He would run circles around her 1v1. This is why.

Matthew Potashto

Let me see if I can explain this in a way everyone will understand: 

“Who cares?”

We watch college basketball teams even though they would get destroyed by any NBA squad — because entertainment in sports is not simply about who is the biggest or strongest. It’s about showing heart, character and passion in fair competition.

Boxing currently has 17 different weight divisions for men. They created these divisions so that bouts are determined by skill, rather than who happens to be taller or who packs on the most muscle.

Female athletes do not have to be as tall or strong as male athletes to be worthy of praise in exactly the same way that Sugar Ray Robinson did not have to be as tall or strong as Mohammed Ali to be named the “fighter of the century” by the Associated Press — just like Caitlin Clark does not have to beat Steph Curry in a game of one-on-one to steal his all-time Division I scoring title from him.

Get more interest in your sport the pay will get better.

Peter Joseph Crawford III

This is another common sentiment: Women’s basketball is “boring” when compared to the men’s game, so, of course, people do not want to watch women play …

… except we know that isn’t true. 

24.1 million people watched the Women’s NCAA championship game this year. That’s more than the 14.82 million viewers the Men’s championship game garnered. It’s also more than watched the NBA Finals, more than watched the World Series, more than watched the Daytona 500 and more than watched the Masters.

It is indisputable that people will watch women play basketball. It’s foolish to claim otherwise.

10 billion vs $60 million. NBA makes a profit and WNBA is still subsidized to just survive.

Michael Chandler

What is their base pay as a percentage of revenue?

Jeremy Moses

How much the NBA makes vs the WNBA?

Sergio JG

This is the big one. “The NBA makes money, and the WNBA does not.” It’s just “simple economics.”

And if you divorce this fact from all context and history, it’s a compelling argument. But I happen to think that context and history are important. 

The very first NCAA basketball championship was awarded in 1939. But the NCAA didn’t bother holding a women’s tournament until 1982. And it wasn’t until 2022 that the women were even allowed to call their tournament “March Madness.” 2024 was only the second year that the Women’s championship game was shown on broadcast television since they were relegated to basic cable in 1995.

The NCAA held women’s basketball back for decades. And just a few short years after some modest moves to promote equality and the women are bringing in more revenue than the men.

But none of these moves towards equality would have happened “naturally.”

In 1972, federal civil rights law commonly referred to as “Title IX” went into effect. 

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute (20 U.S. Code § 1681 – (men and women) Sex)

Before Title IX, colleges would shower men’s sports with money while women were lucky to get a fraction of the same attention and funding – if they were allowed to have a team at all. Title IX created a framework to change that. Colleges could be sued or risk losing federal funding for denying women the opportunity to participate in sports. 

While complete equality is still elusive, enormous strides have been made in women’s sports in the US because of Title IX. 

What is worth noting is that colleges and universities did not invest more in women’s basketball because more people were watching women’s basketball. Rather, more people are watching women’s basketball because colleges were finally forced to fund women’s teams at the same level that they funded the men. 

The investment came first. The dividends followed.

Colleges were forced to bring equality to their sports programs by Title IX. I’m not sure what the solution for pro sports is, but I do know that the WNBA needs ownership that is more interested in promoting the women’s game than it is in protecting the men’s game.

Her entire salary and the existence of the WNBA is paid for by the NBA. It would not exist without men, so how about being grateful for once.

Eric England

There were two common threads woven through the fabric of most of the negative comments about equal pay in sports:

  1. The commenters were male; and
  2. The comments were generally rude, patronizing and mean-spirited.

Lyndon Johnson once said, “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

There is a generation of young men so low in self-esteem that they are desperate to convince themselves that superiority is their birthright by color or gender rather than a condition earned by accomplishment and character, because they find themselves lacking in both.