LeBron James recently signed a four-year, $154 million contract and just surpassed $1 billion in career earnings. Those are insane numbers. No one denies that. What is surely an even more insane number is the amount of money he’s brought Nike, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat.
WNBA star A’ja Wilson recently reacted to the signing on Twitter by saying, “154M….Must.be.nice. We over here looking for a M 😊 but Lord, let me get back in my lane.”
154M ……….. must. be. nice. We over here looking for a M 🙃 but Lord, let me get back in my lane pic.twitter.com/IFDZLlI53z
— A'ja Wilson (@_ajawilson22) July 2, 2018
This has sparked a debate on Twitter that shouldn’t be a debate, but here we are. It’s sparked a gender pay gap debate, but that’s frankly not what this is at all. And it makes the WNBA players who defend the controversy sound uneducated.
Most WNBA player’s salaries start out at $50,000 a year and have a median salary of $76,000. That’s about 20% of the league minimum for an NBA player.
Wilson also commented on the talent of NBA players saying, “lolololol ohh it’s about skill set? Because I heard a bench player gets paid more than … nvm.” If she’s asserting salaries should be based on who’s more talented, then a bench player in the NBA would beat a WNBA player 21-0 in a one-on-one game. It’s biology. The male athletes are bigger, faster, stronger, jump higher, etc.
Serena Williams once played one of the least-ranked, male tennis players in the world. He was ranked 203rd and was described by one journalist as, “a man whose training regime centered around a pack of cigarettes and more than a couple bottles of ice cold lager”. He beat Serena 6-1 after leading 5-0. He added after the match he played like someone ranked 600 to keep the game fun.
So, this is why it’s not a gender pay gap issue, as many believe. It’s a different product and the WNBA players are barking up the wrong tree. It’s strictly a business issue. The average attendance for a WNBA game is 7,716 and the average for an NBA game is 17,987. Across the three major networks for 2017-18, the viewership in millions for the NBA was an average of 2.39 (ABC, TNT and ESPN). The average viewership for WNBA is 171,000 in 2017, which is an all-time low. So, there it is. There’s where the money comes from and why males are paid so much more once sponsors are added in.
Gender pay gap occurs when a male and female do the same job for similar companies and the female gets paid a lower wage than the male for no apparent reason. The NBA and WNBA are not similar companies and the products they produce are not similar.
WNBA players need to lobby for more people to watch. They need to advocate to get more people in the seats and more people to turn on their televisions if they desire a higher wage. They shouldn’t even make NBA comparisons because it’s apples and oranges and will get them nowhere. They need to get out in communities, get more girls interested in basketball, become their favorite players and make them want to watch. That’s how to generate more revenue.
The women of the WNBA are very talented at what they do. Indeed, they’re some of the best athletes in the world but biologically, comparing themselves to NBA players gives them an impossible standard to live up to.