Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese and Cameron Brink emerged as the stars of March Madness. As they enter the WNBA, why aren’t they paid more?

Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese and Cameron Brink emerged as the stars of March Madness. As they enter the WNBA, why aren’t they paid more?

Caitlin Clark has ascended to be one of the most popular faces in all of basketball — men’s, women’s, professional or collegiate — yet she won’t be getting paid what many people think she deserves.

Clark was selected No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft on Monday by the Indiana Fever. After she was drafted, the summary of her four-year/$338,000 contract was made public, sparking outrage from many online, including President Biden.

“Women in sports continue to push new boundaries and inspire us all. But right now we're seeing that even if you're the best, women are not paid their fair share,” President Joe Biden said on X. “It’s time that we give our daughters the same opportunities as our sons and ensure women are paid what they deserve.”

Though Business Insider estimates that Clark’s name, image and likeness (NIL) deals during her record-breaking tenure at the University of Iowa were worth over $3 million, she’s set to make just over $76,000 in her first year in the WNBA. By comparison, Victor Wembanyama, the No. 1 overall pick in the most recent 2023 NBA draft, made over $12 million dollars in his rookie season.

The other top four picks in the WNBA draft — Cameron Brink, Kamilla Cardoso and Rickea Jackson — all have the same contract structure and payout as Clark.

Women’s basketball is, arguably, more popular than ever. But two key factors are keeping the WNBA and its players from capitalizing on its newfound buzz.

The first is the WNBA’s collective bargaining agreement, or CBA. The CBA, which was agreed upon by the WNBA and the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA) in 2020, gives the players around a 10% share of the league’s annual revenue, according to a 2022 study by Bloomberg News. Also, because of a salary cap in the league, the maximum amount a player can be paid for the 2024 season is $241,984.

In the NBA, players and owners split revenue evenly.

There is a clause in the WNBA’s collective bargaining agreement that allows players and owners to split revenue evenly, like the NBA does, but that can happen only with money that exceeds the original targets.

In an appearance on MSNBC following the WNBA Draft on Tuesday, sports journalist Jemele Hill encouraged WNBA fans to do their part to help their favorite players earn more by driving up revenue.

“If you are outraged when you saw those salary figures, if you think women deserve more, it’s really simple,” said Hill. “Buy the merchandise, watch the games [and] go to the game.”

Kelsey Plum, an All-Star for the defending WNBA champions, the Las Vegas Aces, has spoken up about the pay difference between the NBA and WNBA, dissecting misconceptions about the argument for players to make more.

“We are not asking to get paid what the men get paid,” Plum said on the Residency Podcast in 2022. “We’re asking to get paid the same percentage of revenue.”

Plum also said that she didn’t “see a dime” from any of her jersey sales, another result of the CBA’s current structure.

The other factor limiting WNBA players’ earning potential is the league’s current media deal, which, according to Front Office Sports, is worth $60 million. For comparison, the NBA’s current deal is worth $24 billion dollars — a figure that is expected to increase during the next negotiation cycle.

All of this could change in the coming years. Although the current collective bargaining agreement runs through 2027, the players have a chance in 2024 to request to opt out in 2025 and restart negotiations for a new agreement. The players are expected to exercise their option to terminate the deal, leading many to predict a massive change going forward.