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WNBA players call out new G League contracts, and they have a point

Sporting News logo Sporting News 10/19/2018 Jordan Heck

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The NBA Developmental League, recently branded as the G League, announced Thursday it would offer $125,000 to top prospects as an alternative to the one-and-done route in the NCAA. Naturally, this made headlines as an interesting alternative to college for top prospects before reaching the NBA. 

But WNBA players viewed it differently. They saw it as a slap in the face.

MORE: NBA put itself first — not basketball — with new G League decision

A'ja Wilson was a star rookie for the Las Vegas Aces last season, and her tweet in July about LeBron James' contract with the Lakers sparked a much-needed discussion about the wage gap in the WNBA and NBA. The talk lasted throughout the season, and picked up again this week with the G League announcement.

For starters, let's point out that the maximum veteran salary in the WNBA is $115,500. That's less than the $125,000 the G League is offering to players finishing high school.

Wilson, who was the first overall pick of last year's draft, made $52,564 in her rookie season. By comparison, the NBA's first overall pick (Deandre Ayton) will make $8.2 million.

Wilson, and other WNBA stars, understand that the NBA has a bigger market and therefore the players will make more money. But, as her July tweet pointed out, she wants something. The main talking point every player wants to make clear is the big divide when it comes to revenue sharing.

The WNBA pays around 20-30 percent of its revenue to players, while the NBA pays 50 percent to its players. That is a big difference, and it's why players have been so vocal about getting paid.

Liz Cambage had a record-breaking season last year in the league, averaging 23 points (1st) and 9.7 rebounds (2nd), but said in August she isn't sure if she'll return in 2019 partly due to the low pay.

"I've said this many times: [The WNBA] doesn't pay my bills ... playing here doesn't pay my bills. We make more money overseas. I'm ready to have next summer off and focus on getting a European contract where it's 10 seasons here worth the pay.

"It sucks because I love to be here, I love to put the game out there, I love what comes with playing here. But at the end of the day, for my longevity, I worry about my body, my mind and my soul. I really don't get paid enough to be beaten up every game. I'm not a WWE wrestler and that's how it feels sometimes out on the court."

Lisa Borders, who was the WNBA president before recently becoming the CEO of Time's Up, said at the All-Star break that she wants higher salaries for the league's players adding, "We are very much focused on that, growing the business, so the players can get more, so there’s more all the way around."

Borders also mentioned how "all the numbers are pointing in the right direction" in terms of the success in the WNBA.

"Across ESPN2 and NBA TV, viewership is up 35 percent, which is just awesome, and it’s up since 2015," Borders said in July. "Sales in the WNBA store are also up 50 percent. Last year you guys asked me about jerseys and all types of stuff in the store. Clearly there’s more stuff in the store and people are buying it, and we appreciate that, so thank you for that."

Out of the 12 WNBA teams, nine of them saw increased attendance in 2018. The New York Liberty switched venues from Madison Square Garden to the Westchester County Center, which led to a big drop in their numbers and affected the league average overall. But it's clear, interest in the WNBA is higher than usual.

With increased interest in the league, and constant pressure from its players, perhaps in the near future WNBA stars can get what they deserve. But for now, they have every right to call out circumstances that seem unfit, such as the G League contracts being higher than theirs.

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