The WNBA’s Low Pay in the Age of Social Media

By Bre Moorer

For the past couple of months, WNBA stars have been more outspoken than usual about the pay gap.  Or maybe they have always shared their thoughts, but did not get as much attention as they are getting now.  It could be because they can just type their thoughts out in 140 characters or less and simply hit a button that shows their message to millions of people.  That has been an option for years, but why are the fed up women of the professional basketball league seemingly being heard now more than ever?  With the help of social media, specifically Twitter, the low salaries in the WNBA are back in the spotlight this summer, but this time it feels different.

To get the discussion started this time around, Skylar Diggins-Smith of the Dallas Wings appeared on ESPN’s Get Up on May 28th to address the issue with Jalen Rose and Michelle Beadle.  Jalen directed his frustration toward the NBA by saying they need to do a better job of “dedicating resources to help promote” the women’s league since the WNBA is a “subsidiary of the NBA.”  While Diggins-Smith did not flat out agree with Jalen’s point about the NBA being responsible for WNBA players not getting paid as much, she did bring up the fact that “it’s all about exposure.”  In the same breath, the fearless leader of the Dallas Wings also mentioned social platforms should be better utilized.  She recommended showing more games on Twitter.  The South Bend legend’s comments inspired her peers to express themselves without regret.

In the wake of LeBron James signing a 4-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers for a whopping $153.3 million, rookie sensation A’ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces took to Twitter to “congratulate” King James.

While some Twitter users backed Wilson, most users bombarded the 1st overall pick in the 2018 draft with reasons as to why they think she should get back in her lane.  One person said ratings are too low for the women hoopers to get more money, to which Wilson responded it is more than just viewings.  A couple of users tweeted that if she was as good as LeBron, then she would earn more.  The power forward laughed at those tweets for the most part, but she did say to one troll that bench players in the NBA get paid more than starters in the WNBA – eliminating the arguments that the pay gap is about skill set.  Perhaps the most popular argument against the WNBA getting paid more is the NBA bringing in more revenue than the WNBA.  The 2017 NCAA champion had a response for that too.  She said that the NBA gets more of a percentage of the revenue they bring in than the women so it is still unfair regardless of how much revenue is brought in.  Wilson spent a whole weekend defeating Internet trolls in the beginning of July. She ended her run by hoping that the men in her mentions had daughters who want to play basketball so that they can grasp where she is coming from.  She was “glad to stir the pot.”

This past weekend, NBA superstar Damian Lillard watched A’ja Wilson’s Las Vegas Aces and the Connecticut Sun work.  He was obviously impressed by what he saw and backed Wilson’s call for equal pay.  By the end of the game, a video of Lillard revealing his thoughts on the lack of respect WNBA players get was trending on Twitter.

In Lillard’s opinion, the women as individuals should be treated as the pros they are as far as salaries go and their league deserves to be exalted.  Having someone like Damian Lillard, who is a 3-time NBA All-Star, could start a trend of NBA players speaking up in support of WNBA players getting paid more.

After all is said and done, the WNBA is in need of support and exposure in order for its players to get what they deserve in the first place – more money.  As long as the women continue to use their platforms and their male counterparts actively show their love for the WNBA, the future looks bright for equal pay between the NBA and WNBA.

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