A’ja Wilson, a WNBA player for the Las Vegas Aces, recently took to social media to complain about the pay gap between NBA players and those in the WNBA.
Wilson’s comments stirred a vigorous conversation on social media and the sports world about the wage discrepancy between male and female basketball players. Wilson made the comments after LeBron James signed a four-year, $154 million contract with the Lakers.
Even the most skilled WNBA players make just a fraction of what an NBA player who is benched for a majority of the season can earn. Reigning WNBA MVP Sylvia Fowles, for instance, earned $109,000 last year. In comparison, NBA 2017 MVP Russell Westbrook made a whopping $28.5 million. Meanwhile, Leandro Barbosa earned $500,000 in the 2017-18 NBA season despite being waived by the Phoenix Suns in July, reports Forbes. As a result, Barbosa will earn nearly five times Fowles’ earnings even though he is no longer playing for the Suns.
Many make the claim that the WNBA players are paid less because they do not draw the same attention and attendance as the NBA. While attendance has been improving over the years since the league’s inception in 1996, getting fans into seats still remains an issue. The Washington Post reported:
WNBA games averaged 7,716 fans per game in 2017, the highest number in six years but far from a significant improvement. WNBA games haven’t averaged 8,000 fans per game since 2009, and the 2017 figure was down 28.9% from the league’s all-time high attendance in 1998, which was the WNBA’s second season.
We solicited our audience to offer ideas to increase attendance at WNBA games. Here are some suggestions (these are posted verbatim from Instagram with some light editing for clarity):
– Team with NBA on promotions, social media, shout-outs, community events, and other involvements.
– Live streaming, community activations, and global initiatives.
– Unique and more involved half-time shows.
– Figure out a way to involve hip hop or the black culture. For example, give Beyonce and Jay-Z side seats.
– Play before the men’s (NBA) games.
– Lower the rims to 8.5 feet, so more players could play above the rim.
– Play satellite games in other cities where multiple games occur, lots of prizes and guest interaction.
– Open to foreign countries.
– Look at smaller venues.
– Sell tickets via Instagram.
– Have partnerships with Girl Scouts or Girls Inc. to spread the word.
– [Have] a fan night for aspiring WNBA players in each city where they play.
– Buil[d] a pipeline of young female athletes and provide free tickets to WNBA games.
– [Develop] integrated summer leagues/all-star games so they can develop a stronger fan base that will support them independently.
– Give the ladies real extra financial incentives to ball.
– They need to be featured on networks other than just ESPN.
– Engage older players who have retire[d] to remain involved outside of coaching.
– Half-time entertainment with local celebrity entertainers.
– Go to markets with no sports teams and let them sell the arenas out.
– [Create a] reality show following five of the most interesting/outrageous/intelligent/socially active, etc., players.
– Every WNBA team should have their own touring bus. During some off days and during the off season, drive this bus into neighborhoods in your respective city, where the players will get out and meet the fans, offer giveaways, and shoot arounds.
-Selena Hill contributed to this report.