Apr 19, 2024 - Sports

Everything we know about the Bay Area's WNBA team

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Jess Smith (center) and Danette Leighton (right) in conversation with Megan Rose Dickey at Manny's in San Francisco. Photo: Courtesy of the Golden State Warriors

As the Bay Area prepares for its WNBA team, supporters noted it's coming at a time when there's an increased interest in women's basketball, driven in part by the Caitlin Clark effect.

Why it matters: When the yet-to-be-named team's season tips off next year, it'll mark the first WNBA expansion since 2008.

What they're saying: "Everything that happened in March Madness, everything that's been happening in women's sports, is not a coincidence," Danette Leighton, CEO of the Women's Sports Foundation, told Axios at an event about the WNBA this week.

Catch up quick: The Bay Area's WNBA team, owned by the Golden State Warriors, will play home games at the Chase Center and practice in Oakland.

  • As of Wednesday, season-ticket seat deposits reached 6,400, Jess Smith, the team president, told Axios at the event.
  • The team has not yet released ticket pricing, but Smith said the goal is to make the games "accessible to everybody" and that tickets will not be as expensive as ones for the notoriously pricey Warriors games.

While the team hasn't announced its name, the franchise is close to sharing it soon, Smith said.

  • The goal has been to find a team name that "gives a nod to the Warriors" but is also "something that stands on its own," Smith said.
  • And it's likely "Golden State" will be part of the name, owner Joe Lacob previously said.

Follow the money: Despite growing excitement around women's basketball, pay equity between NBA and WNBA players remains an issue.

  • Clark, the WNBA's No. 1 overall draft pick, will make just $76,000 in salary during her first year, compared to Victor Wembanyama, the NBA's No. 1 overall draft pick last year, who earned a $12 million salary in his first year.
NBA and WNBA salaries
Spotrac; Note: Based on cap hit (average annual value of a player's contract) in 2023-24 season; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios

To increase WNBA players' pay, the entire ecosystem needs to be supported by fans, brands and advertisers, Leighton said.

  • For fans, that could be buying tickets and team gear, she said.
  • When fans invest, "brands want to invest and advertisers want to invest," Leighton said. That "will help raise the salaries. That will help raise pay equity."

The intrigue: Players will soon be able to ask for a larger share of the league's growing pie, as the WNBA will need to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement with players by 2027.

What we're watching: The Bay Area's team will have to wait until next year's expansion draft, regular draft and free agency to build a roster.

  • In the expansion draft, the team will be able to poach a to-be-determined number of available players from the other 12 WNBA franchises, Smith explained.
  • But don't expect the Bay's team to be able to steal Clark from the Indiana Fever, as teams are allowed to protect a certain number of their players.
  • "The point of expansion, if it's done well, is that everyone's competitive," Smith said, "that the team coming in is competitive right away."

What's next: Fans can expect a lot of team-related news to come in the summer, Smith said.

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