This year, more and more players have come forward discussing the pay discrepancies between the WNBA and NBA. Recently, Skylar Diggins-Smith of the Dallas Wings discussed her same concerns.
And, Diggins-Smith is letting people know, it has nothing to do with how interesting the women’s game may, or may not be. Because, if you watch, you’ll see how competitive and interesting the games are.
“Players in the NBA get about 50% of the revenue. For women, the percentage is in the twenties. So before we even talk about base salary or anything like that, we don’t even get paid the same percentage of the revenue that we bring in, which is kind of unbelievable. People try to hijack this issue and say that women’s basketball may not be as interesting a game, because they disparage women in sports, period. But we don’t even make the same percentage of revenue! And jersey sales…we don’t get any of it. The men do. And I have had a top-five jersey for three or four years in the WNBA.”
Furthermore, Diggins-Smith gave a slight comparison to being the highest paid player on her team, a well-known player. On the flip side, a guy in the NBA who gets paid the most on his team, but isn’t a strong of a name as hers. Yet, he is making millions more than her.
“I’m the highest paid player on the Dallas Wings, and my salary is in the low six figures. [Harrison Barnes, the highest paid player on the Dallas Mavericks, made $24 million last season.] He’s definitely younger than me. Do you know his stats? Was he an All-Star? I mean, it doesn’t matter. But last year, I was First Team All-WNBA, which only goes to five players. I was also a WNBA All-Star for the third time.
“To think of that and then to see how the numbers translate for guys who are bench players, guys who never see the floor…”
Now, as she stated, there is no “discredit” to the guys who don’t play or come off the bench, however, in comparison to the women’s side, things are completely lopsided. As she stated, she feels “about 90% of the league goes overseas” in order for them to “have more opportunities for higher wages.” How many men do you know of who play in the NBA and in the off-season have to go overseas to play?
She isn’t the only one to mention how much more money WNBA players make overseas than stateside. Her teammate Liz Cambage recently disclosed the low pay in the league may cause her not to return to the WNBA.
Not done with the comparsion, Diggins-Smith also took notice of the marketing issues. Still, the league isn’t being shown very much on TV – especially on ESPN the top sporting channel ever.
“I would be curious to know how successful we could be with such a great product if we had the same platform as the guys do. Think about the marketing dollars that they spend on guys, the platform given to them. Branding opportunities, TV deals, endorsement deals. It’s kind of like the chicken and the egg. People always talk about, “Well, you gotta have more people in the seats.” But nobody puts us on TV! We have a competitive game, great match-ups; everything that would yield people wanting to see us, plus the success of women’s college basketball.
“But you rarely see the WNBA on the “Worldwide Leader in Sports”: ESPN. You rarely see them talking about women’s sports in general, let alone highlights of the WNBA games. Yes, LeBron is one of the best athletes in the world, but they’ll go into everything that he ate before they show a highlight of a WNBA game.”
At the end of the day, Diggins-Smith and women in the league know their worth. They know there are ways to improve the league, branding, salary and more. And rightfully so, Diggins-Smith has challenged the league to step up and make changes. And for women to keep fighting for change as well.
“It’s ridiculous. Shame on them not to put us in positions to be successful when we have the best product. Change has to start within our league. The players have to take a look at our collective bargaining agreement. The Players Association has to step up. We want a league that we can be proud of, where our children can have the opportunity to play and not have these issues.
“We still stand on the shoulders of the trailblazers before us who gave us the opportunity to play. As athletes, we have to fight. As women, we have to fight. And we need more people at our table to fight with us. There need to be more women and more people of color hired so we can curate our own sports stories. And we need men speaking out about these things.”
Diggins-Smith said it perfectly, it isn’t about “just the money,” but the love of the game. The men get praised for their love of the game in millions each year.
“It’s unfortunate that men make more money for the same amount of work, or even less work.”