‘That’s crap’: Republican Senators on Caitlin Clark’s WNBA salary

‘I don’t think there’ll ever be too many women athletes who will make like the stars,’ said Senator Tommy Tuberville

Eric Garcia
Washington DC
Thursday 25 April 2024 17:42 BST
(Getty Images)

Republican Senators are split about the fact that WNBA first-round draft pick Caitlin Clark will be paid significantly less than her male counterparts.

Ms Clark garnered international attention during her time playing for the University of Iowa Hawkeyes’ women’s basketball team. Earlier this month, the Indiana Fever WNBA team selected her as the first pick in its draft.

But the fact Ms Clark’s four-year contract was worth just $338,056 sparked outrage given that she would make significantly less than her male colleagues in the NBA — specifically, she looks to make about $76,000 per year. Her direct male counterpart in the NBA, the first draft pick, has a contract worth $55 million.

President Joe Biden also criticized the low salary.

When The Independent asked them about Clark’s pay situation, Republican Senators from Ms Clark’s home state of Iowa and from Indiana diverged.

“Well, I think that's crap,” Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa told The Independent. “She is marvelous. I really think she is extraordinary. I think what she's doing for women's sports is really going to raise the issue so I'm really proud of her. Regardless, I am so proud of the entire team.”

But Senator Chuck Grassley, the oldest-serving Senator, said he believes Clark’s fame will lead to better pay for the WNBA on its own.

“She's going to lead the way so that within 10 years, women are going to get paid just as much as the men,” the nonagenarian senator told The Independent.

Indiana’s Republican Senator Todd Young highlighted Clark’s historic $28 million deal with Nike and implied that Clark’s lower salary was justified because of viewership numbers.

“I hope that the women's game continues to grow in viewership and brings in the sort of revenue that would justify a significantly higher salary for her,” he told The Independent. “ But I'm really pleased for Caitlin and her family that Caitlin just inked a massive sponsorship deal with Nike. That should be our point of emphasis right now.”

When asked if he would catch any Indiana Fever games, Young said, “You betcha.”

Senator Mike Braun, who is running for governor of Indiana, repeated the sentiment.

“Well, maybe that'll be remedied if she plays as well as she has up to this point, maybe she'll be the one that changes that,” he told The Independent, when asked about Clark’s low salary.

Senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama — who prior to winning his election in 2020 served as head football coach for Auburn University, the University of Mississippi, Texas Tech University and the University of Cincinnati — had a more mixed opinion.

Caitlin Clark sees new Indiana Fever jersey for first time after WNBA draft

“I mean, it’s cause and effect I guess,” Tuberville told The Independent. “I don’t think there’ll ever be too many women athletes who will make like the stars. You know, LeBron James, he turns on a lot of televisions.”

“But Caitlin Clark, she might be a difference,” he conceded.

Tuberville said he watched the final game of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament where Clark’s Hawkeyes lost to the University of South Carolina, which had an undefeated season. The game drew 24 million viewers, more than the men’s final game and the most viewers of any college basketball game since 2019.

On the other side of the aisle, Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto — whose state of Nevada hosts the back-to-back reigning WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces — said female players should be paid equally on principle.

“I think it is important that our women get equal pay just like the men do in athletics,” she told The Independent. “It should be just that women get equal pay just like men do in athletics and sports.”

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