Stephen Curry Would Hate To Be Paid Like Women In Professional Basketball
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Gradelo Staff
1 week ago
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(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Candace Parker #3, Nneka Ogwumike #30, and Sylvia Fowles of the Minnesota Lynx are three of the elite players in the WNBA whose pay is very limited by the WNBA’s labor market. If Stephen Curry of the NBA was paid like these three stars he would be taking a $30 million pay cut this year. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Once upon a time, opportunities for women to play team sports were scarce. Not only were women not encouraged to play, women were actively discouraged. But according to R. Vivian Acosta and Linda Jean Carpenter, as of 2014 more than 3.2 million girls (41.2% of all athletes) played high school sports while more than 200,000 women played college sports.

In addition, women are now playing professionally in a variety of team sports, including (among others) soccer, basketball, softball, and hockey. Although women are now getting paid to play sports, that pay seems to be amazingly low. This past year – as we will discuss in a moment – more and more women are now questioning the amount they are paid to play their sport.

How low is the pay in women’s sports? To answer this, let’s talk about the highest paid player in the NBA. Stephen Curry is being paid $34.7 million to play in the NBA this season. But let’s imagine the NBA still had revenues in the billions (as it does) but followed the same approach to player pay that we see in the WNBA.

Last September I detailed the gender pay gap in professional basketball. While NBA players receive 50% of their league revenue, I estimated that WNBA players only receive about 22.8% of WNBA revenue. As I noted at the time, this estimate likely exaggerates how much the WNBA players really receive. I was not able to determine how much revenue the WNBA earns from merchandise sales, sponsorships, or how much it is paid by its deal with Twitter. In addition, for gate revenue I didn’t use average ticket price but minimum ticket price. Therefore, it’s very likely the WNBA earned more revenue than my $51.5 million estimate.

But even if we take that estimate as accurate, WNBA players are paid quite poorly. It’s reported that average wages in the WNBA are about $75,000.  With 157 players in 2017, the WNBA paid its players less than $12 million (or again, 22.8% of league revenue).

To put all this in perspective let’s imagine what Curry would make in the WNBA’s labor market. Average salary in the NBA is currently $6,517,428. But if the players only received 22.8% of the revenue, that number would be $2,976,683.

Of course, Curry is not average. He’s one of the NBA’s elite. So in WNBA terms, Curry is like Candace Parker. According to Summit Hoops, Parker was one of six players who earned $113,500 to play WNBA basketball in 2017; the highest salary earned by anyone in the WNBA. Such a salary, though, is only 1.51 times higher than the average WNBA salary. If Curry’s salary was restricted to only being 1.51 times higher than the average in the NBA, Curry would only be paid $4,504,714 in 2017-18. In other words, if Curry was paid like a WNBA player, Curry would be taking a pay cut of more than $30 million!

It’s important to emphasize that this pay cut is simply a result of imposing WNBA rules on the NBA’s player market. The revenues of the NBA would still be the same. But if Curry faced the WNBA’s labor market his pay would be more than $30 million less than what he is making in 2017-18.

Now let’s flip this story and look at what the WNBA players would be paid if their labor market was the same as we see in the NBA. Once again, in the NBA players are paid 50% of league revenue. If WNBA players had this deal and were paid according to how many wins each player produced (calculation of Wins Produced explained at The Ladies League), the following players would be the 10 highest paid players in the WNBA:

  1. Sylvia Fowles: $1,222,827
  2. Jonquel Jones: $1,193,532
  3. Nneke Ogwumike: $992,787
  4. Candace Parker: $954,559
  5. Chelsea Gray: $852,263
  6. Skylar Diggins-Smith: $829,864
  7. Courtney Vandersloot: $825,293
  8. Maya Moore: $809,006
  9. Alyssa Thomas: $787,670
  10. Elena Delle-Donne: $680,525

Once again, the maximum salary in the WNBA is only $113,500; and of these players, only Parker and Diggins-Smith were paid that well.  So, each of these players is dramatically underpaid by the WNBA.

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(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Candace Parker #3, Nneka Ogwumike #30, and Sylvia Fowles of the Minnesota Lynx are three of the elite players in the WNBA whose pay is very limited by the WNBA’s labor market. If Stephen Curry of the NBA was paid like these three stars he would be taking a $30 million pay cut this year. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Once upon a time, opportunities for women to play team sports were scarce. Not only were women not encouraged to play, women were actively discouraged. But according to R. Vivian Acosta and Linda Jean Carpenter, as of 2014 more than 3.2 million girls (41.2% of all athletes) played high school sports while more than 200,000 women played college sports.

In addition, women are now playing professionally in a variety of team sports, including (among others) soccer, basketball, softball, and hockey. Although women are now getting paid to play sports, that pay seems to be amazingly low. This past year – as we will discuss in a moment – more and more women are now questioning the amount they are paid to play their sport.

How low is the pay in women’s sports? To answer this, let’s talk about the highest paid player in the NBA. Stephen Curry is being paid $34.7 million to play in the NBA this season. But let’s imagine the NBA still had revenues in the billions (as it does) but followed the same approach to player pay that we see in the WNBA.

Last September I detailed the gender pay gap in professional basketball. While NBA players receive 50% of their league revenue, I estimated that WNBA players only receive about 22.8% of WNBA revenue. As I noted at the time, this estimate likely exaggerates how much the WNBA players really receive. I was not able to determine how much revenue the WNBA earns from merchandise sales, sponsorships, or how much it is paid by its deal with Twitter. In addition, for gate revenue I didn’t use average ticket price but minimum ticket price. Therefore, it’s very likely the WNBA earned more revenue than my $51.5 million estimate.

But even if we take that estimate as accurate, WNBA players are paid quite poorly. It’s reported that average wages in the WNBA are about $75,000.  With 157 players in 2017, the WNBA paid its players less than $12 million (or again, 22.8% of league revenue).

To put all this in perspective let’s imagine what Curry would make in the WNBA’s labor market. Average salary in the NBA is currently $6,517,428. But if the players only received 22.8% of the revenue, that number would be $2,976,683.

Of course, Curry is not average. He’s one of the NBA’s elite. So in WNBA terms, Curry is like Candace Parker. According to Summit Hoops, Parker was one of six players who earned $113,500 to play WNBA basketball in 2017; the highest salary earned by anyone in the WNBA. Such a salary, though, is only 1.51 times higher than the average WNBA salary. If Curry’s salary was restricted to only being 1.51 times higher than the average in the NBA, Curry would only be paid $4,504,714 in 2017-18. In other words, if Curry was paid like a WNBA player, Curry would be taking a pay cut of more than $30 million!

It’s important to emphasize that this pay cut is simply a result of imposing WNBA rules on the NBA’s player market. The revenues of the NBA would still be the same. But if Curry faced the WNBA’s labor market his pay would be more than $30 million less than what he is making in 2017-18.

Now let’s flip this story and look at what the WNBA players would be paid if their labor market was the same as we see in the NBA. Once again, in the NBA players are paid 50% of league revenue. If WNBA players had this deal and were paid according to how many wins each player produced (calculation of Wins Produced explained at The Ladies League), the following players would be the 10 highest paid players in the WNBA:

  1. Sylvia Fowles: $1,222,827
  2. Jonquel Jones: $1,193,532
  3. Nneke Ogwumike: $992,787
  4. Candace Parker: $954,559
  5. Chelsea Gray: $852,263
  6. Skylar Diggins-Smith: $829,864
  7. Courtney Vandersloot: $825,293
  8. Maya Moore: $809,006
  9. Alyssa Thomas: $787,670
  10. Elena Delle-Donne: $680,525

Once again, the maximum salary in the WNBA is only $113,500; and of these players, only Parker and Diggins-Smith were paid that well.  So, each of these players is dramatically underpaid by the WNBA.

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