Gap between Caitlin Clark’s WNBA salary and her male counterparts draws outrage

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College basketball superstar Caitlin Clark is set to soar to new heights in the WNBA — but her rookie contract will see her pocket a mere fraction of the millions her male counterparts have cashed in on the court.

The University of Iowa legend, who has already made history as the NCAA Division I basketball’s overall top scorer, sealed a contract with the Indiana Fever after she was selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA draft Monday.

The contract will see Clark earn $338,056 over the course of four years, according to the WNBA’s collective bargaining agreement.

Under the 2024 WNBA rookie scale for the No. 1 – 4 draft picks, she’ll earn a base salary of $76,535 for her first year, $78,066 the second year, $85,873 the third, and a fourth year option of $97,582.

Despite her unprecedented star power, Clark’s salary is just a sliver of the eye-popping amount male athletes make in the NBA.

WNBA draft picks No. 2-4 — Stanford’s Cameron Brink who went to the Los Angeles Sparks, South Carolina’s Kamilla Cardoso with the Chicago Sky, Tennessee’s Rickea Jackson also with the Sparks — will make the same pay as Clark.

For comparison, San Antonio Spurs rookie star Victor Wembanyama — the No. 1 pick in last year’s NBA draft — secured a $55 million four-year contract that saw him pocket $12.1 million in his first season, according to athlete contract tracker Spotrac.

Though Clark will likely rake in much more income through endorsements and sponsorships, outraged simmered on social media over the glaring salary disparity between the WNBA and NBA.

“TODAY” show host Hoda Kotb said Tuesday morning: “They’ve already sold out games. She had the highest ratings, her teams and the Final Four had the highest ratings — higher than the World Series, higher than the NBA. So, I was like, what is she going to get paid? Because finally, you can get a real paycheck. Then I saw it and was like, this can’t be right.”

Co-host Jenna Bush Hager added: “Honestly the gap is so jarring … We’re talking about equal pay. That ain’t even close.”

They noted that things will likely change in the future as games have already sold out and viewership, which has historically lagged behind the NBA, has soared, partially on account of Clark’s celebrity.  

Even male athletes have chimed in on the gap.

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Russell Wilson shared a post about Clark’s pay on X, adding: “These ladies deserve so much more … Praying for the day.” 

“To the people saying it doesn’t matter what Caitlin Clarks salary is because she will be making millions through endorsement, it actually does matter,” one user on X wrote. 

“Presumably she’ll make bank on endorsements but Caitlin Clark’s WNBA salary is less than that of a union nurse, teacher, or cop,” another added.

Journalist Lisa Ling wrote on Instagram: “Steph Curry makes more per game than what Caitlin Clark is making for 4 years! With the toll sports and travel take on women’s bodies, is this even a living wage? I know WNBA games have not brought in comparable numbers by any stretch of the imagination, but this is disgraceful. Do better for all of our women athletes!” 

The fight for more equitable pay in women’s basketball has been a long one. 

“From a salary standpoint, it’d be great for the women to be able to make more money,” WNBA legend Lisa Leslie said in an October 2022 episode of “The Shop: Uninterrupted” in a conversation with fellow basketball stars LeBron James and Draymond Green.

“It’s a lot of work — it’s a lot of hard work. I think I saw something that said one player that makes maybe $12 million on an NBA team can cover the whole WNBA’s salaries. And so that’s kind of crazy,” she added.

The WNBA did not immediately respond to an NBC News request for comment.

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