Category Archives: WNBA

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.

Dear Maya

Dear Maya,

Thank you. Thank you for being an inspiration. It goes deeper than basketball. I could talk all day about your career accolades. The rings, the stats, the awards. I could go on for days about it. But you already know that. As one of my favorite athletes, you have always captivated me with your abilities on the court. You represent something much more than basketball to me.

You’re hope. I think one of the most impactful things I’ve ever experienced was a sport and gender class last year. I learned so much more about the plight of the woman athlete. It was truly eye-opening, but it also made me more conscious than ever about what people say. I see the nasty things people say on message boards and comments. The Internet provides people the space to do so anonymously and without consequence. Yet you press on. It’s bigger than that.

I see the impact of representation. Your Jordan commercial was something to behold. The wave of kids you inspired from using your platform in such a way is uniquely special. Count myself in as well. I see visions of a world being shaped by our current-day athletes that will allow me to tell my children they can do anything. That nothing can hold them back. As athletes, whether you think it’s fair, you all have an enormous reach. I want to thank you for being a great role model.

I wrote an article a while back [See: “Why can’t I buy a WNBA jersey?” on this site]. I was griping about not being able to purchase your jersey that day. I should have been a bit more patient as the next day it was available on the team store. However, I am a man of my word. Today, I’ll be rocking one of my favorite player’s threads seeing her play for the first time in person. Please try not to give out too many buckets today against the Sky. They are still my hometown team.

You’re a walking legend. On and off the court. And for that, I thank you.

Sincerely,

Don Collins

WNBA Attendance and Ratings Drop

by Angeline Seames

With it being the 20th Anniversary of the WNBA, the program is targeting a new branding effort. A drop in viewership and the lowest attendance rate since the beginning of the WNBA.

The WNBA had an average 7,318 fans a game, which is down 3.4 percent from last season and the lowest in the leagues history. Not only did attendance watching the game live fall, but viewership also fell by 14 percent (an average of 202,000 viewers). ESPN and ESPN 2 aired 11 games during the regular season, while NBA TV televised over 40 games and the rest covered by ABC.  Over the past the years the WNBA attendance has had its ups and downs starting off in 1997 with 9,662 average of attendance and then a 12.4 percent increase of 10,864 average attendance, which was the highest ever in the WNBA in 1998.

Compared to the NBA, TV this season increased 8 percent to a an average of 56,000 viewers from the 52,000 last season. Media wise, WNBA.com grew by 26 percent, Instagram followers were up 51 percent and 9 million likes and followers across all social media.

The biggest drop in the WNBA was made by the San Antonio Stars, with an 8-26 record in the WNBA and a 37 percent drop in attendance compared to last year. With this the Stars were forced to relocate because of the team’s home court being renovated. While the Phoenix Mercury led attendance for the WNBA with an average of 9,946 despite not having the biggest increase in attendance compared to the L.A. Sparks.

As the Phoenix Mercury WNBA team has come off multiple championship seasons, the WNBA and the head of business operations for the Mercury hope to build momentum and make fans want to attend all the games that the WNBA host. The WNBA hopes after the postseason in October to study whether they can eventually grow the league to bring in an expansion committee.

In the end, the WNBA will have to figure out how they are going to save the league from the drop of attendance and viewership all together. If not, the WNBA may have fewer teams playing, increased ticket prices, and the threat of doing away with the WNBA all together. Hopefully the WNBA will figure out a smart way to increase the WNBA brand all together and save the league.

 

Diana Taurasi’s Decision: What It Means For The WNBA

This piece is written by Alexx Klein. She was a journalism major at Indiana U with a sport marketing and management concentration. Currently she serves as the Athletic Communications GA where she is the primary SID for cross country and swim/dive. Previously, she worked as the media relations intern in the IU athletic department, as well as the PR intern for the Washington Mystics. This summer she will further continue her WNBA experience and serve as the PR intern for the Indianapolis Fever. 

By Alexx Klein

February 9, 2015

While it may not have been at the top of the average sports fan’s radar, the Diana Taurasi decision was one that holds significant impact for the future of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). This blog is not meant to criticize or condone the WNBA’s highest-paid player’s decision, but rather to voice my concern for what this means moving forward.

To backtrack, Taurasi recently announced that she would be sitting out the entirety of the 2015 WNBA season to focus on herself, her family and honing her basketball skills. How she will be able to do that is because her Russian team she plays for in the off season offered to pay her more to sit out than she would make playing in the WNBA this season.

Taurasi wrote a letter to the Mercury fans and in it, stated that, “The year-round nature of women’s basketball takes its toll and the financial opportunity with my team in Russia would have been irresponsible to turn down. They offered to pay me to rest and I’ve decided to take them up on it. I want to be able to take care of myself and my family when I am done playing” (Taurasi, 2015).

It is the culture within the WNBA for athletes to play overseas during the winter because of the short WNBA season (four months). Taurasi’s team is UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia, where she is making about $1.5 million, according to a Washington Post article. Her salary with the Phoenix Mercury amounts to just less than $107,000 a year, which is less than the league maximum available.

So what can be done?

ESPN’s Kate Fagan suggested a restructuring of salaries within the league. In the 2014 season, there were about 40 players receiving close to the league max, which breaks down to 3-4 “max” players on each team and if anybody has watched a WNBA game you know that is definitely not the case. Fagan’s article suggests that there should only be 12 players in the league to receive that type of money: one on each team.

If the NBA doesn’t pay Cleanthony Early (a mediocre, at best, player for the Knicks who very few have heard of) the same as Lebron James, then why pay average WNBA players the same as its stars? Yet that’s what the league chooses to do.

She also goes as far to say that the highest paid member of the team should not be the coach, it should be the player, like it is in most other professional leagues. You’d be hard pressed to find a sport where the coach makes over twice the salary as his/her players do.

If Taurasi’s decision to sit sparks other WNBA stars into following her lead, then the league needs to implement a solution sooner than later. Other players have been offered money by their overseas team to sit out the WNBA season, Taurasi is just the first to take the deal.

Without the Taurasi’s, Britney Griner’s, Elena Della Donne’s, Skylar Diggins’ and Maya Moore’s of the league, the WNBA loses a large chunk of its entertainment value and that is where the downward slope would begin. Without fans to consume the product, there is no revenue coming in from ticket sales, apparel or concessions, and with only half of the teams currently turning a profit, the league cannot afford to take such a financial hit. As stated by a Deadspin article, if the players “begin to make decisions based solely on finances, there may not be any players left” (Draper, 2015, para 11).

Is this simply an issue of money or do you think the athletes are actually concerned about their long-term health? Is it right for a coach to be making two or three times more than these star athletes in the league? Do you think the salary reallocation proposed by Kate Fagan is a good solution?

References:

Boren, C. (2015, Feb. 4). Diana Taurasi’s decision to skip this season is sobering message for WNBA. Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/early-lead/wp/2015/02/04/diana-taurasis-decision-to-skip-this-season-is-sobering-message-for-wnba/

Draper, K. (2015, Feb. 3). Diana Taurasi’s Russian Team Is Paying Her To Skip The WNBA Season. Dead Spin. Retrieved from http://deadspin.com/diana-taurasis-russian-team-is-paying-her-to-skip-the-w-1683643165

Fagan, K. (2015, Feb. 4). Diana Taurasi’s decision to sit out should spark WNBA salary changes. ESPNW. Retrieved from http://espn.go.com/wnba/story/_/id/12272036/diana-taurasi-decision-sit-spark-wnba-salary-changes

Taurasi, D. (2015, Feb. 3). Diana Taurasi’s Open Letter To Phoenix Mercury Fans. Arizona Republic. Retrieved from http://www.azcentral.com/story/sports/wnba/mercury/2015/02/03/diana-taurasi-open-letter-to-phoenix-mercury-fans/22808453/

 

WNBA Star Brittney Griner Attacked in China

By Savannah Malnar

Random attacks on athletes are thankfully uncommon, but unfortunately on November 3rd WNBA star Brittney Griner was subject to one. Griner is currently playing for the Beijing Great Wall team who plays within the Women’s Chinese Basketball Association. It is her second season in that league. WNBA players commonly go to play for foreign leagues during the offseason to play to stay conditioned and to earn a higher salary.

Griner and her teammates were leaving practice at a gym located in a city called Shenyang where they had a game scheduled the following day. As they were walking towards the bus, a man who had been walking down the street yelling charged them with a knife. The women rushed to the bus but the man also managed to get into the bus and cornered them into the back. Griner said she did not understand anything he was saying, but later her teammates said he was shouting things about how they had supposedly hit his wife and how he was going to kill them. Without reason, the man eventually left the bus without causing any serious harm to the women and later the police apprehended him and took him to a mental institution.

Due to the lack of information immediately following the event, this created a lot of speculation as to the reason the man went after Griner and her teammates. Some people even suggested he was a fan who was outraged because Griner was taking a spot on the team that perhaps another Chinese-born player could have taken.

Griner soon utilized the sport media to eliminate any speculation about the event. She released a long statement giving the full story from her perspective through ESPNW and that allowed other media outlets to provide the public with a much more detailed account of the incident.

Griner’s team decided to play the game the next day and won. Grimer only suffered a very shallow cut on her elbow and her other teammate was sore due to the man attempting to stab her (the two jackets she was wearing protected her).

Through all of this, Griner remained optimistic and lighthearted. In her statement she even joked about how the man damaged her favorite Nike jacket. She also said “The thing I keep reminding myself is that the incident seemed to be random — we were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”