WNBA vs NBA Debate: The Issue

Michael Pearce, Sports Editor

The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) conference finals are wrapping up this week. However, the focus is far from what is taking place on the court.

Recently, WNBA players have become more outspoken about the wage gap between their salary and the salary of National Basketball Association (NBA) players. Skylar Diggins-Smith has been the face of this movement, as back in May she began the conversation on ESPN’s show “Get Up.”

Diggins-Smith said of the pay gap, “It’s disappointing. A lot of us play two seasons, one overseas and one for the WNBA. So you could argue we have a longer season and put in equal work. We have a lot to do.”

The problem frankly, is much more than basketball. The issue is the systematic oppression of women in the sports industry.

Sports has always been a male-dominated field. From the people playing the sports, owners of the teams and the people who cover them. It’s mainly men. The first woman to ever call play by play for an NFL game was Beth Mowins, who did it in 2017.

When women begin playing the same sports on the highest level, there is without a doubt a subconscious dislike for their league from the fans of the male league of the same sport. This is the root of the problem which is keeping WNBA players from making even a quarter of what NBA players make.

Every time a WNBA player makes a comment about the pay gap, social media explodes. You see the same comments on social media about these athletes every time. Basketball fans hiding behind the screen will say that any high school team could beat the WNBA all-stars, and that they all belong in the kitchen. While it may just be a means to get social media attention, it reveals a dynamic that’s disturbing about society as a whole.

Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner said in an interview: “WNBA players don’t make sh*t,” and in the future, WNBA players might sit out unless they get compensated more. For context, Griner is one of the highest paid players in the WNBA, making approximately $110,000.

The cap for WNBA athletes’ salaries is $110,000. The minimum salary for an NBA player with no experience in the league is almost eight times that amount, at $838,000.

While it is true that the WNBA does not have the viewership at all that the NBA has, the league is not less entertaining. There are rarely any dunks, and the athleticism is lesser. However there is more to basketball than dunking and athleticism. The WNBA has a lot to offer with technique and team play, which any true basketball fan will enjoy.

If you call yourself a basketball fan, but you don’t support the WNBA players getting larger contracts, you’re not a real basketball fan. The WNBA being popular as well as the NBA being popular is a great thing for the sport of basketball.

As a basketball fan myself, I wish that there was more acceptance and tolerance for the WNBA and the very real pay gap that they face. They do need more viewers to bring in more money, so start watching. Get involved and enjoy the sport that is rapidly rivaling football in popularity across the United States, and combat the hate that is spewed all over social media whenever a talented athlete is rightly upset about being underpaid.