Why Do WNBA Players Make So Little?

By Swikriti Kandel / 6 July 2023 03:43 AM

Jackie Young Dribbling The Basketball During A Matchup On 6 July 2023
Source : twitter

Why Do WNBA Players Make So Little? WNBA players make so little because of the less revenue generated by the league.

The income of female b-ball players is low since they do not have a full-revenue sharing agreement with the league. The disparity between male and female sports is another reason.

The league has been operating for the past 27 years. It does not have a massive loyal fanbase, highly-paying sponsors, or has cracked profitable deals with TV channels.

Women's National Basketball Association is valued at $475 million as per Sports Business Journal. Since it is only a multi-million dollar league, it can not pay more than a few hundred thousand to its athletes.

Besides, the players only have 50% splits in incremental revenue in the league. With profit-sharing from the total revenue out of the scope, athletes make less and go abroad to earn extra during the offseason.

Why Do WNBA Players Get Paid Less Than NBA?

WNBA pay gap is mainly due to the lack of popularity. The low fan following hampers ticket sales, TV ratings, and merchandise sales which affect the revenue.

The league is often compared with its male counterpart, NBA. However, the two can not be put into the same frame due to the difference in their age of existence.

NBA was established 50 years prior to the women's league. The male's league struggled over the decades to earn such fame and become one of the major leagues.

With their efforts, the National Basketball Association successfully earned a loyal audience. Following that, they earned sponsorships, TV deals, endorsements, and more making them a multi-billion league.

As of now, female athletes have also acknowledged the facts. They do not want equal paychecks but shared revenue as Kelsey Plum disclosed to Just Women Sports

The collective bargaining agreement(CBA) of the women's league has noted that the players share only 50% of the profit earned by increased sales. They can not negotiate a new deal with the CBA until 2025. 


Former athlete Nneka Ogwumike Is The President Of The League's Player's Association
Source : twitter

How much do WNBA players get paid? They get paid $113,295 on average. On the contrary, the average pay of a sportsman in the NBA is $9.6 million as per Gaimday. 

In 2022, the NBA handed $8.5 million as a moderate salary and the WNBA provided only $102,751. The women's league has witnessed an increase in game attendance and TV ratings. 

Though the payment difference does not seem to even out soon, female athletes will surely receive their deserved wages in the upcoming years.

The highly paid athlete in the NBA is Stephen Curry. In the upcoming 2023-24 season of the league, he will receive an annual paycheck of a whopping $51.9 million.

There are three most-paid WNBA athletes for the 2023 season. All of them are handed a yearly payment of $234,936. It is not even close to the minimum salary of the NBA, which is $1,119,563.

Highest paid WNBA players 2023 are as follows:

  • Diana Taurasi: $234,936
  • Arike Ogunbowale: $234,936
  • Jewell Loyd: $234,936
  • DeWanna Bonner: $234,350
  • Skylar Diggins-Smith: $234,350
  • Elena Delle Donne: $234,350
  • Natasha Howard: $227,900
  • Cheyenne Parker: $216,100
  • Alyssa Thomas: $212,000
  • Jonquel Jones: $211,150

Diana has been playing with the Phoenix Mercury since she was drafted in 2004. She signed a two-year deal with the club worth $469,872 in 2023.

Arike made her WNBA debut in 2019 with Dallas Wings. She signed a protected supermax three-year deal of $725,952 which extends until the 2025-26 season.

Drafted by Storm in 2015, Jewell has secured two league championships with the team. Her contract was extended to two years for a handsome sum of $463,030.

DeWanna is associated with the Connecticut Sun and formerly Auburn University. She has the second-highest paycheck in the league. Bonner signed a 4-year deal in 2020 which summed $898,700.

Skylar is a point guard for Phoenix since 2020. Mercury bound her in a four-year-long contract for a total cash of $898,700. She will become an unrestricted free agent in the 2024-25 season.

Jewell Loyd Flaunting Her Body In Seattle Jersey While Holding Basketball In Her Hands
Source : instagram

Washington Mystics athlete Elena previously played for Chicago. She was also signed for a 4-year deal with the same amount as Skylar and DeWanna.

Power forward, Natasha was traded to Dallas by New York Liberty. Liberty contracted her for four years back in 2021. In the 2024-25 season, she will have an annual income of $234,350.

30-year-old Cheyenne is associated with the Atlanta Dream. She is the highest-paid athlete on her team. Parker signed a protected one-year deal with the club for $200,000 in 2023.

Connecticut Sun's forward Alyssa is 6 feet 2 inches tall. She has a deal worth $836,000 spanning 4 years. As per Sportrac, the deal will end after the completion of the 2024-25 season.

Bahamian-Bosnian center Jonquel represents the Liberty. In 2022, she agreed to join the club for 2 years for $416,150. Drafted by the Sparks, Jones was previously a member of the Sun.

Lowest Paid WNBA Player is Victaria Saxton and Kadi Sissoko. They are the draft picks of 2023 who have an annual salary of $62,285.

Victaria and Kadi were picked in the third round of the 2023 WNBA Draft that was held on 10 April. Usually, the rookies have a less salary in any league including the W b-ball. 

Saxton was booked by the Indiana Fever as the 25th overall pick. She is a former basketball forward at the University of South Carolina. Likewise, the player is an NCAA Champion.

Kadi was the 29th overall pick of the Phoenix Mercury. She was a collegiate athlete for the universities of Syracuse, Minnesota, and Southern Carolina. Moreover, Sissoko was named to the All-Pac-12 team in 2023.

Other lowest-paid female basketball athletes for the 2023 season are listed below:

  • Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu: $65,290
  • Ashley Joens: $65,290
  • Dorka Juhasz: $65,290
  • Leigha Brown: $65,290
  • Zia Cooke: $68,295
  • Jordan Horston: $68,295
  • Laeticia Amihere: $71,300
  • Grace Berger: $71,300
  • Haley Jones: $71,300
  • Lou Lopez Senechal: $71,300

How Much Do WNBA Players Make Overseas?

How much do WNBA Players Make Overseas? WNBA players have made up to $1.5 million dollars by participating in the international leagues.

According to Queen Ballers, 60% of the female athletes from the league went to play abroad in 2022. What is the reason you might ask? Insufficient wage is the only answer.

Though they do the same hard work as their male counterparts, they are receiving a comparatively low amount. Because of that, they are playing non-stop putting stress on their body.

When the offseason hits, athletes of the other leagues go home to their families to spend some quality time. But it is different in case of the female basketball athletes.

Rather than wrapping things up to head home, they pack their bags to perform in the international tournaments. It is clear that the earning from the league is not sufficient for them to make ends meet.

WNBA Players In International Teams

Most of the WNBA players have played internationally at least once in their careers. It includes players like Brittney Griner, Liz Cambage, and Jonquel Jones.

Liz, in her interview with ESPN, marked that she makes 5 to 8 times more hooping overseas. Though we have the best leagues in the world, we are not treated as the best athletes told Cambage.

Brittney, on the other hand, was detained in Russia on 17 February 2022 for having a medically prescribed hash oil. She was there to compete in the Russian Premier League. Griner was released on 8 December in exchange for the arms dealer Viktor Bout.

The case of Brittney points towards safety concerns while playing in other countries. Despite that, the athletes can not stop themselves from going abroad because of financial reasons.

Talking with The Athletic, Jones recently noted that she earned the equivalent of her WNBA salary by playing one month in the UMMC Ekaterinburg of Russia. However, not all athletes are paid the same.

There is a salary disparity between the elite and the average players. Erica McCall who has played internationally disclosed that her top annual payment was $110,000 from Perfumerias Avenida and Botas SK.