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WNBA looks to ride success of college stars to boost revenues, player salaries

WNBA looks to ride success of college stars to boost revenues, player salaries
WNBA looks to ride success of college stars to boost revenues, player salaries 03:00

CHICAGO (CBS) – When Angel Reese and Kamilla Cardoso hit the hardwood for the Chicago Sky and Caitlin Clark for the Indiana Fever, the WNBA rookie stars will be earning far less than their male counterparts in the NBA.

Some fans may be surprised to see WNBA players' starting base pay under $80,000, but why is the league structured like this?

What will it take to change?

When Clark and her Iowa Hawkeyes came to play at Northwestern in January, it was the home team's first-ever sellout game. Fans hoped to "be like Caitlin" and lined up for hours and spending hundreds, sometimes thousands, to be in the same space as the college phenom. Young fans watched her and the growing attention to the sport.

"I play basketball, so it's just good to see how many people are starting to focus and look on women's sports and watch women's sports," said fan Madisyn Bellin.

The buzz carried over after the buzzer to this year's NCAA women's championship game which might have been a loss for Clark's Iowa squad, but a win for women's sports.

"The national championship peaked at 24 million viewers and was ESPN platform's most-viewed college basketball game, men's or women's, on record, incredible," said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert.

The commissioner addressed the league's financial situation ahead of this week's draft.

"We are not going to jeopardize the financial viability of this league," she said. "It was just a few years ago we were surviving and now we are going from survive to thrive."

Alabama Media Group columnist Roy S. Johnson said fans can't compare rookie salaries between the NBA and WNBA.

"They are wholly run separately, which means that their economics are very separate," Johnson said.

The two leagues have vastly different revenue totals and different contracts with their respective leagues, but Johnson added he thinks the WNBA players union is in a strong position to renegotiate after the 2025 season and expects they will since they're already seeing fans flock to see the league's stars.

On the Chicago Sky's website, available tickets to the team's first home game on May 25 start at $65, and resell for as much as $604.

When Clark's Indiana Fever come to town, those numbers skyrocket from between $225 to $1,700.

"If you really want to see pay equity in the WNBA, or in any female sports league, go to the games, buy the tickets, buy the jerseys and the uniforms," Johnson said. "Support the league at this peak and hope that it's not the peak, that it's just the beginning of a change that closes the gap between the NBA and WNBA salaries."

Or as Commissioner Engelbert put it, "Buy, rep, watch, attend."

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