‘Can’t be right’: Joe Biden, sports world fume at Caitlin Clark’s ‘jarring’ WNBA payday

Is that all she’ll get?

That was the overwhelming response to basketball fans realising Caitlin Clark would earn just A$119,000 in her first season as a professional player.

Clark, 22, was selected first in the WNBA Draft on Tuesday (AEST) amid expectations she will have a transformative effect on women’s professional basketball.

The Indiana Fever made it official, taking the Iowa Hawkeyes star with the first pick.

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Clark fell just short of winning an NCAA title with Iowa but has already taken women’s basketball to another stratosphere, breaking the record for the most career points by a college player, male or female.

Her long range sharpshooting ability has attracted a growing legion of fans and earned comparisons to the NBA’s all-time three-point leader Steph Curry.

Clark will earn A$527,000 over four years, per the league’s collective bargaining agreement.

In comparison, Australia’s Liz Cambage is reportedly earning more than A$1 million for a season in the Women’s Chinese Basketball Association.

The WNBA’s salaries mean Clark will make significantly more money from endorsements, which already include Nike, Gatorade, State Farm and Panini.

Clark recently declined a A$7.8 million offer from rapper Ice Cube to play in his BIG 3 league.

ESPN journalist and current contributor to The Atlantic Jemele Hill took to X on Tuesday in a lengthy post about the situation that the WNBA faces and responded to critics who bashed what the league was paying its newest star, Clark.

“I’m already annoyed by this conversation because for years, WNBA players have fought for more money,” Hill wrote.

“And when they were outspoken, so many of y’all told them to shut up or reminded them how they had no value The NBA has had 50+ years of investment, media coverage, etc. After 27 years, the WNBA will not be the current NBA. So stop comparing them.”

Hill went on to point out that WNBA players compete for four months and are given free housing and cars as part of their deals before suggesting that the lower salaries were “why so many women’s players play overseas to boost/supplement their income.”

“Weaponising this information against WNBA players is another form of misogyny,” Hill said.

“These women have been dreaming of playing professionally in front of American audiences their whole lives,” Hill continued.

“Instead of clowning and reminding them of what they’re not — buy the merchandise, go to the games, and watch the games on television.

“Very easy to criticise when most of y’all couldn’t get paid to compete at anything.”

Hill had been complimentary of Clark’s play and said she believed it would translate to the WNBA, but she also criticised the way that Clark has been held up by the media.

Still, Clark’s impact on women’s basketball has been hard to deny after a record 2.4 million people tuned in to ESPN on Monday to watch the WNBA draft.

That number was higher than last year’s MLB draft on ESPN/MLB Network and the NHL draft, which also aired on ESPN.

Michael Rubin, CEO of merchandise seller Fanatics, said Clark had the highest selling jersey on draft night of any athlete in any sport in the company’s history.

US sports commentator Bill Simmons on his podcast said Clark has already had an effect similar to “sports shifters” Tiger Woods, Conor McGregor and the Williams sisters in elevating their respective sports to the mainstream.

The WNBA’s relatively paltry salaries have been criticised by commentators and even US President Joe Biden weighed in.

“Women in sports continue to push new boundaries and inspire us all,” President Biden wrote on X.

“But right now we’re seeing that even if you’re the best, women are not paid their fair share.

“It’s time that we give our daughters the same opportunities as our sons and ensure women are paid what they deserve.”

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Russell Wilson wrote on X: “These ladies deserve so much more … Praying for the day.”

Today show host Hoda Kotb said on Tuesday: “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.”

— With NY Post, AFP

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