Home Economy Will the Caitlin Clark effect impact WNBA players’ salaries?

Will the Caitlin Clark effect impact WNBA players’ salaries?


(NewsNation) — The basketball world can’t get enough of Caitlin Clark, and now that the college season is over, the momentum created by lifting women’s college basketball to new heights is expected to carry over to the pros.

The Indiana Fever took Clark with the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft Monday, immediately turning up the heat in a city and state that already lives and breathes basketball. 

While Clark will only make a little more than $76,000 in her first year, it’s projected that with current endorsements, she’ll make more than $3 million, ushering in a new era in the WNBA.

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NBA, WBA TV rights negotiations

The NBA and WNBA will jointly negotiate new rights with Disney, which owns ESPN and ABC, next year.

However, amid the skyrocketing interest in female athletes, if the WNBA doesn’t get what it wants during this negotiation round, the league will have the option to negotiate its own deal separate from the NBA. It could mean more money and more respect in women’s professional basketball.

Rise in women’s sports viewership

Popularity in women’s sports has been rising throughout the past several years.

Last year’s WNBA season was its most-watched in 21 years, and the league saw its highest average attendance since 2018. Viewership increased 21% over the 2022 season across its national television partners and the league’s average attendance of 6,615 fans was the WNBA’s highest since the 2018 season.

Fox Sports averaged more viewers for women’s basketball compared to men’s, and women’s elite sports are projected to generate more than $1 billion for the first time in 2024.

The surge in popularity of women’s basketball is thanks in no small part to the performances of players like Clark, who helped reshape basketball history and captivated fans with her mesmerizing shot.

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“Last year’s championship game, when most people still hadn’t heard of her, drew 10 million viewers. This year’s championship game drew nearly 19 million viewers,” said Michael McCarthy, a senior reporter for Front Office Sports. “Those are NFL-like numbers. That beats the World Series, it beats the Oscars, it beats the NBA Finals.”

Now, the WNBA is hoping to take advantage of these explosive numbers and new household names, hoping for bigger venues, higher salaries and more advertising dollars.

“The more media rights the league gets, the more money goes out to the players, and there’s more money to buy better facilities,” McCarthy said. “Private jets instead of flying commercial, real training facilities instead of broken-down things. And maybe paying these players a wage that gets them to stay in the U.S. instead of having to go overseas to Russia and get arrested like Brittney Griner.”

Surging ticket prices

StubHub reports it’s seen a huge surge in demand for WNBA tickets, with overall sales for the Fever up 13 times over last year’s start. The team still hasn’t said how many tickets it sold this season.

Clark grew up a Minnesota Lynx fan, and she’s scheduled to play them at Minneapolis’ Target Center on July 14. Tickets start at $230, with courtside seats demanding at least $1,400.

Potential Nike endorsement

Clark, the former University of Iowa guard, is close to finalizing an eight-figure endorsement deal with Nike, which could include a signature shoe line, per The Athletic.

The deal would be about 30 times more than the WNBA contract expected to pay her more than $338,000 over four years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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