We Can Change the Fate for the WNBA

While+Americans+consistently+watch+the+NBA%2C+the+same+can%27t+be+said+for+the+WNBA.

(Photo Courtesy of Sportslogos.net)

While Americans consistently watch the NBA, the same can’t be said for the WNBA.

Daisy Koffler

Americans love basketball; it’s the third most popular sport in the nation. When I say ‘Americans love basketball,’ I mean men’s basketball.  Next to the NBA (National Basketball Association), the women’s league seems like a cruel joke. 

I’m ashamed to say I’ve never watched a single WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association) game. I have, however, watched NBA games on TV and gone to the stadium to see teams play in person. And while I don’t follow the NBA closely,  I know the names of at least ten prominent players in the league and a few of the teams. Before writing this article, I didn’t know the name of a single WNBA player. 

DeWanna Bonner is the highest paid player in the WNBA. Her four year contract with the Phoenix Mercury will earn her a total of $899,480, which is an average annual salary of $224,870. While that is a ton of money for many Americans, that isn’t even 5% of the average salary for an NBA player. 

DeWanna Bonner, now playing for the Phoenix Mercury. Image source.

The statistics display alarming gender inequalities in the sport. It feels unfair that women playing the same sport as men, who have invested hours and hours of practice into their game to reach the professional level, have staggering salary gaps. 

The NBA produces an astonishing revenue of over 7 billion dollars, while the WNBA earns less than 1% of that number, only earning 60 million dollars on average per season.

The NBA produces an astonishing revenue of over 7 billion dollars, while the WNBA earns less than 1% of that number, only earning 60 million dollars on average per season.

Compared to 6.4 million for an NBA player, WNBA players’ average salary is a meager 71,635 to play the same sport..

There are a variety of reasons why WNBA players earn lower salaries than male players. They have a shorter season and players’ income depends on the league’s revenue. The NBA leads in ticket sales and viewership by a landslide. If the league earns more money, they can pay their players more. 

However, there is another factor besides revenue. The WNBA can make decisions that determine the players’ pay besides what the league profits. While NBA players earn 50% of the league’s revenue, the WNBA pays their players only about 20%. Regardless of the total, it is ridiculous that the WNBA is paying their players a smaller portion of their revenue than the NBA pays. 

Junior Kendall Messler is a point guard on the girls’ varsity basketball team. Messler reported on the different ways she

Compared to 6.4 million for an NBA player, WNBA players’ average salary is a meager 71,635 to play the same sport.

watches professional basketball on TV and her thoughts on the imbalances between the leagues. 

“I would say I watch the NBA quite often,” Messler stated. “I watch it wherever there are games on.I have watched the WNBA before….It really inspires me to watch [women] play. I don’t watch them as much as I watch the NBA…..The NBA is what people normally watch and mostly watch. It is easier to find.” 

If the WNBA doesn’t get the views, they won’t gather the same profitable advertisements and endorsements as the men’s league does. Everyone would like to see WNBA players earn a higher salary, considering the mental and physical journey it takes to get on their court. But the WNBA cannot magically start paying their players more. They need more viewers to pull in more money. The WNBA season needs and deserves the same excitement, respect, and attendance that the NBA holds in order to close the economic gap. 

JuniorPiper Karnilawis another player on the WESS basketball team. Even as a female basketball player herself, Karnilaw watches more men’s basketball games than women’s. 

“I watch the NBA every day when there is a game,” Karnilaw said. “I watch the WNBA on occasion but not as much… I have an NBA league pass but I don’t have a lot of opportunities to watch the WNBA because I don’t have anywhere to watch it.” 

In addition to lack of accessibility, Karnilaw believes the WNBA’s low ratings are results of gender expectations. 

“I think the sad truth is that if women aren’t wearing skin tight outfits [like in] gymnastics or acting effeminate [like in] figure skating, people don’t want to watch them.” 

Karnilaw is accurate in mentioning that basketball is a more traditionally “masculine” sport. That doesn’t mean gaining more viewership for the WNBA is impossible. With the right advertising techniques, I believe the WNBA can significantly increase their engagement. 

Junior Ava Napach currently does not watch WNBA games, partially because she doesn’t know where to watch them. That said, Napach believes that better marketing would grow her interest in the WNBA. 

“I think celebrity advertisements, billboards, stuff like that and getting to know the players more would get more people watching,” Napach suggested. “Also if NBA players would encourage the WNBA players and encourage people to watch [their games].” 

Freshman Carlos Serrano shared the ways he thinks the WNBA could gain more publicity. “[We need] marketing techniques like advertisements and commercials that introduce us to the players of the WNBA, where to watch it, and altogether just telling people that this division of basketball is important and exists.”

I hope to see a turn in professional basketball where more Americans are aware of events in the WNBA and their season stimulates more excitement from viewers. Imagine Drake and Spike Lee sitting courtside at a New York Liberty Game, and the rest of their stadium packed with fans. 

Together we can change the fate of the WNBA, accumulating viewers one game at a time. To find the schedule and news on the WNBA, check out their official website. I implore you to watch a game in the 2021 season.