The NBA Developmental League, recently branded as the G League, announced Thursday it would offer $125,000 to top prospects as an alternative to the one-and-done route in the NCAA. Naturally, this made headlines as an interesting alternative to college for top prospects before reaching the NBA.
But WNBA players viewed it differently. They saw it as a slap in the face.
Hahahahahahahahhahahahahaha let me get one of these “select contracts” https://t.co/80zcLpdGOL
— A’ja Wilson (@_ajawilson22) October 18, 2018
A’ja Wilson was a star rookie for the Las Vegas Aces last season, and her tweet in July about LeBron James’ contract with the Lakers sparked a much-needed discussion about the wage gap in the WNBA and NBA. The talk lasted throughout the season, and picked up again this week with the G League announcement.
For starters, let’s point out that the maximum veteran salary in the WNBA is $115,500. That’s less than the $125,000 the G League is offering to a handful of players finishing high school.
But lowkey the real question here is: with this being more than the WNBA max salary, would women be allowed to hoop in the GLeague? because I think some of us could hang. Asking for a friend. ?✊? ? https://t.co/tTLYEg7UzL
— Chiney Ogwumike (@Chiney321) October 18, 2018
so where do I sign up for the G league…..
— Jewell B Loyd (@jewellloyd) October 19, 2018
I’m trying to play in the G league what up ..
— Alexis jones (@Lextoo_shifty) October 19, 2018
It is worth noting the G League has more teams (27) than the WNBA (12). So the overall percentage of players making the max in the G League will be much lower than the percentage of players making the max in the WNBA. But the fight the WNBA players have started is still worth continuing.
Wilson, who was the first overall pick of last year’s draft, made $52,564 in her rookie season. By comparison, the NBA’s first overall pick (Deandre Ayton) will make $8.2 million.
Wilson, and other WNBA stars, understand that the NBA has a bigger market and therefore the players will make more money. But, as her July tweet pointed out, she wants something. The main talking point every player wants to make clear is the big divide when it comes to revenue sharing.
The WNBA pays around 20-30 percent of its revenue to players, while the NBA pays 50 percent to its players. That is a big difference, and it’s why players have been so vocal about getting paid. And that conversation could lead to a new collective bargaining agreement.
The players can warn the league by Oct. 31 if they want to opt out of the current CBA, which would then expire after the 2019 season. But once the 2019 season is up, players can argue for points they want to be made regarding the pay structure and whatever else they feel is relevant for themselves and the league.
As for now, though, the players are doing the best they can with what they earn salary wise.
Liz Cambage had a record-breaking season last year in the league, averaging 23 points (1st) and 9.7 rebounds (2nd), but said in August she isn’t sure if she’ll return in 2019 partly due to the low pay.
“I’ve said this many times: [The WNBA] doesn’t pay my bills … playing here doesn’t pay my bills. We make more money overseas. I’m ready to have next summer off and focus on getting a European contract where it’s 10 seasons here worth the pay.
“It sucks because I love to be here, I love to put the game out there, I love what comes with playing here. But at the end of the day, for my longevity, I worry about my body, my mind and my soul. I really don’t get paid enough to be beaten up every game. I’m not a WWE wrestler and that’s how it feels sometimes out on the court.”
Lisa Borders, who was the WNBA president before recently becoming the CEO of Time’s Up, said at the All-Star break that she wants higher salaries for the league’s players adding, “We are very much focused on that, growing the business, so the players can get more, so there’s more all the way around.”
Borders also mentioned how “all the numbers are pointing in the right direction” in terms of the success in the WNBA.
“Across ESPN2 and NBA TV, viewership is up 35 percent, which is just awesome, and it’s up since 2015,” Borders said in July. “Sales in the WNBA store are also up 50 percent. Last year you guys asked me about jerseys and all types of stuff in the store. Clearly there’s more stuff in the store and people are buying it, and we appreciate that, so thank you for that.”
Out of the 12 WNBA teams, nine of them saw increased attendance in 2018. The New York Liberty switched venues from Madison Square Garden to the Westchester County Center, which led to a big drop in their numbers and affected the league average overall. But it’s clear, interest in the WNBA is higher than usual.
But despite the increased interest, the revenue unfortunately hasn’t been there for the league. A WNBA spokesperson said the league has “lost significant money every year” of its 21-year history. A person familiar with the situation told Sporting News the league expects to lose $12 million in 2018.
So it puts the league in a tough spot because they do want to pay their players, but it’s difficult when you’re losing money each year. As Borders noted in July, “This is a business, and the economics today don’t allow us to pay more. But when it does, we will.”
Borders challenged “society to support this league and support these women,” which falls not only on fans purchasing tickets, apparel, etc. But it also falls on corporations to sponsor the league and help support them so the people in charge can pay these women what they deserve.