Home Did you see Caitlin Clark’s WNBA salary? Time to pay the women what they’re worth

Did you see Caitlin Clark’s WNBA salary? Time to pay the women what they’re worth

Chris Graham
deflated basketball
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The WNBA Draft, with Caitlin Clark as the #1 pick, drew an average of 2.5 million viewers on Monday night, in shouting distance of the 2023 NBA Draft, which averaged 3.7 million viewers.

That people tune into names being announced is something I don’t understand, either, so, you’re not alone.

NBA games, on average, drew 1.6 million viewers per broadcast this season, and this is up slightly from last year.

The WNBA averaged 505,000 viewers in its summer 2023 season. It will almost certainly at least double that, with the league making the wise move to give the Indiana Fever, which took Clark with the first pick, 36 nationally-televised games this summer.

The one area where the numbers get a little out of whack is attendance. The WNBA averaged 6,615 paying fans per game last season, and because the schedule is truncated, that translated to a total of 1.6 million customers; the NBA is averaging 18,324 fans per game this season, for a total of 22.5 million.

When you look at these numbers – the WNBA gets a third of the NBA’s sets of eyeballs and paying fans per game, its draft got two-thirds of last year’s NBA Draft – you might be wondering how it is that what the players get paid is so out of whack.

Last year’s #1 NBA Draft pick, Victor Wembanyana, got a four-year, $55.2 million contract, with a first-year salary of $12.1 million.

Clark, as the #1 pick in the WNBA Draft the other night, will get a four-year, $338,056 contract, with a first-year salary of $76,535.

I’m not making that up.

Wembanyana is literally being paid 158 times what Clark will be paid this season.

Which would make sense if anywhere close to 158 times the number of people were watching the games.

The only number that justifies any significant discrepancy is the total attendance – the 22.5 million for the NBA vs. the 1.6 million for the WNBA.

It’s a safe bet that the WNBA will get more paying customers this year with Clark joining the traveling party, so, there’s that.

The reason I’d make that safe bet: contrasting the 18.2 million that watched the women’s national-title game to the 14.9 million that watched the men.

I’d also gamble that this Caitlin Clark phenomenon, which I would compare to the renaissance that Larry Bird and Magic Johnson brought to the NBA in the late 1970s, might help us get to the point where the WNBA moves away from playing an abbreviated summer schedule, and goes October-to-June like the NBA.

There’s demand for the product, basically.

Time for the producers to satiate that demand.

And it’s past time to pay the women what they’re worth, and I’m not talking a literal penny on the dollar to what the guys make.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].