May 15, 2024 - Sports

A look at WNBA stars’ lower salaries

Seattle's top-paid athletes, by select league
Data: Spotrac; Chart: Axios Visuals

Seattle's top WNBA star, the Storm's Jewell Loyd, may be the highest earner on her team but her salary still falls significantly short of high-profile male athletes on the Seahawks, Mariners and Kraken.

By the numbers: Loyd makes $245,508 annually. The Seahawks' Geno Smith makes $25 million, the Mariners' Luis Castillo makes $21 million and the Kraken's Vince Dunn makes more than $7.3 million.

  • Axios used Spotrac, which tracks professional sports contracts, to review the average annual salaries of Seattle's top-paid players from four teams from the recent year.

Driving the news: Fans of No. 1 draft pick Caitlin Clark were surprised to find out she'll earn just $76,000 in her first year in the league.

Stunning stat: In fact, the cost of payroll for Clark's entire team ($1.2 million) is actually a little less than what one NBA bench player makes in a year ($1.5 million).

  • The NBA brings in more revenue than its sister league, giving it more bandwidth to cover massive paychecks, even for its worst players.

Yes, but: According to Just Women's Sports, WNBA players receive 50% of the league's incremental revenue. NBA players receive 50% of all revenue.

  • That means WNBA players share in only the revenue earned above the league's revenue target for that season. The revenue target goes up by 20% each season, but the actual numbers are unknown.

The bottom line: WNBA players don't get the same revenue share as NBA players, and previous efforts to rectify this haven't succeeded. But in November, they'll have the chance to opt out of their current collective bargaining agreement and negotiate for a better share, higher pay and other benefits.

What's next: As massive interest in Clark and this year's WNBA draft shows, there's a huge market for the WNBA — and Seattle has an especially robust fan base.

  • The Storm kicked off their season last night at Climate Pledge Arena with a matchup against the Minnesota Lynx.
  • Their next home game is against the Indiana Fever (that's Clark's team) on Wednesday, May 22.
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