Caitlin Clark’s rookie salary with WNBA sparks outrage

Women’s basketball star Caitlin Clark has signed a four-year contract with the Indiana Fever worth $338,056. However, her annual salary has sparked discussions of pay disparity

Meredith Clark
New York
Wednesday 17 April 2024 18:05 BST
Related: Caitlin Clark chosen as first pick in WNBA Draft
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Caitlin Clark, the record-breaking NCAA basketball star, was selected first pick in the 2024 WNBA draft by the Indiana Fever. However, her rookie salary with the professional league has sparked outrage over pay disparity in women’s basketball.

According to Spotrac, a website that tracks sports contracts, the 22-year-old athlete is expected to sign a contract with the Fever worth $338,056 over the course of four years. She will earn $76,535 in her rookie season this summer, and is projected to earn an annual salary of $97,582 by the end of her four-year contract.

Unsurprisingly, many fans were quick to point out that Clark’s rookie salary is far less than her male counterparts in the NBA. In fact, Victor Wembanyama - the first pick in last year’s NBA draft - signed a four-year contract with the San Antonio Spurs worth $55m, per Spotrac. He earned more than $12m in his first season alone.

“Greatest player in college basketball history just got an entry level project manager salary,” one fan wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

“This is bogus, they have made more headlines than any man that is currently playing,” another person pointed out. “Pay women what they deserve in sports.”

“The statistically greatest college basketball player in history is getting paid a five-digit salary in a professional sports league. Ridiculous,” said someone else.

Meanwhile, some people pointed out that Clark is likely to make an even bigger profit than her WNBA salary simply from her various endorsement deals. In October 2022, Clark inked a major deal with footwear brand Nike, as well as her sponsorships with State Farm, Gatorade, Buick, H&R Block, and Bose. From brand deals alone, Clark is estimated to make more than $3m per year, according to her NIL valuation.

“This is so bad. She’ll make probably make 50x this in endorsements,” said one fan, as another person wrote: “I know she is going to make a bag off endorsements but Caitlin Clark’s WNBA contract is straight up disrespectful.”

Even US President Joe Biden called for female athletes to be “paid what they deserve” amid outrage over Clark’s first-year salary. “Women in sports continue to push new boundaries and inspire us all,” he began his post on X, formerly Twitter. “But right now we’re seeing that even if you’re the best, women are not paid their fair share.

“It’s time that we give our daughters the same opportunities as our sons and ensure women are paid what they deserve,” Biden added.

Throughout her time as point guard on the University of Iowa’s Hawkeyes, Clark has been lauded as one of the most successful players in the women’s NCAA. She holds the NCAA’s all-time scoring and assist records for both men and women, and is credited with helping increase viewership for NCAA women’s basketball. This year’s final championship game between Iowa and South Carolina attracted 24m viewers, topping the men’s D1 final audience by millions and attracting the most viewers of any college basketball game since 2019.

The WNBA currently makes an estimated $60m annually from selling its media rights and licensing deals with Amazon, CBS, and ION, Front Office Sports reports. In comparison, the average NBA team is worth approximately $3.85bn - with the New York Knicks, Golden State Warriors, and the Los Angeles Lakers each worth more than $6bn, according to Forbes. The NBA is expected to strike a media rights deal this summer worth between $60bn and $72bn, Sports Business Journal reported in February, while the league’s previous TV deal with Disney and Turner in 2014 was worth a combined $24bn.

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