WNBA draft: Do you make more than the face of women’s basketball?

As basketball phenom Caitlin Clark starts her rookie season in the WNBA, she’ll be making about $76,000 a year.

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark stands on the court during the second half of the Final Four college basketball championship game against South Carolina in the women's NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)(AP/Carolyn Kaster)

That’s not the millions that you see NBA players getting even when they’re young rookies.

Of course, Clark is coming into the league with all kinds of lucrative endorsement deals she has gathered from her meteoric college playing-career.

USA Today Sports Columnist Christine Brennan, who is also a contributor to ABC News, CNN and the PBS NewsHour, joined WTOP’s Shawn Anderson and Anne Kramer to chat about the basketball star’s next move.

Listen to the interview or read the transcript below.

Sports columnist Christine Brennan on how much money basketball phenom Caitlin Clark will be making when she joins the WNBA


Shawn Anderson: It’s interesting that a lot of folks are just coming to the realization that these women who are going into the WNBA as top draft choices are not making the big money that guys in the NBA make or NFL rookies make. Tell us how maybe things might change in the future. How does Caitlin Caitlin Clark fit into all this?

Christine Brennan: Yeah, it’s gonna change. Caitlin Clark — everything she touches changes and changes for the better. So the next network deal for the WNBA, the TV rights deal, is coming up. And so there’ll be negotiations and the timing will be perfect … Yesterday, 17,000 people (were) in Indiana for the watch party. I mean, the jersey sales sold out, this is perfect timing.

But the fact is that the WNBA salaries are woefully low. It’s the reason that Brittney Griner was in Russia. If they were making a ton of money, if they were making millions like the NBA players, then Brittney Griner wouldn’t have been in Russia, wouldn’t have been arrested. Of course these players, many of them go overseas, not just Russia, but Spain and Asia, Turkey — everywhere, to supplement their income and make more money there than the U.S. pays them in the WNBA. So, for example, Brittney Griner was making $240,000, and then with bonuses probably about $400,000. Steph Curry $50 million. That’s the difference. That’s the history, which as I said, I think is about to change.

Anne Kramer: Christine, though, is it going to be enough because don’t they need the TV network money to actually increase their sales along with the ticket sales? So if the excitement is out there, and we’re ready to watch Caitlin, we’re ready to energize the WNBA, how long does it take to kind of match those salaries are even getting close?

Christine Brennan: You’re right, it’s gonna take a little time. It’s not happening tomorrow, in spite of the incredible influx and wildly popular player that Caitlin Clark is. But this new contract will reflect some of it. It isn’t going to be NBA numbers. But we’re also talking about something here that we all know — capitalism. Title IX deals with high school and college. So I’ve had people today saying, Well, what about Title IX? Of course, the law that opened the floodgates for girls and women’s women to play sports and mandates proportionality, if not equality. That’s high school and college. That’s not the pros. This is about capitalism.

And for every single person listening to us right now, who’s saying, ‘Oh, that’s terrible, Caitlin Clark $76,000 salary.’ Again, she’s making millions with endorsements, as you said, people are saying, well, ‘That’s wrong. It’s terrible.’ Have they bought tickets to a WNBA game? Have they watched the WNBA game? Have they bought the products that are being sponsored on the commercials? Have they bought a jersey? Most of America hasn’t done any of that. Again, it’s going to change. But the reason that this is happening is because Americans have spoken with our pocketbook for years that they didn’t want to support the WNBA which of course, is much, much more recently developed as a league than the NBA. So that’s the other factor. But this is about our country and what it wants. Again, it’s going to change because we’re seeing the results with Caitlin Clark now.

Shawn Anderson: I’m gonna go a little basketball geek on you here, Christine. I’m comparing this WNBA draft to the 1984 NBA draft. That was the draft with Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, John Stockton, Sam Perkins … Here we’re were talking a lot about Caitlin Clark. But then we have Cameron Brink out of Stanford. We have Angel Reese out of LSU. We have (Kamilla) Cardoso out of South Carolina. This could be the equivalent of 1984 in the NBA for the WNBA.

Christine Brennan: Absolutely. And that’s why I am very optimistic. Having the conversation about the money is great because everyone’s now focused on how bad it is. Right? And the same thing here. … These other athletes are great, and they’ve gotten so much attention because of Caitlin Clark, Angel, Reese and Caitlin last year, right. So Shawn, you’re absolutely right. This I believe will go down and we’re looking at it 10, 15 years from now, and that watershed moment not just for basketball in the WNBA — for all women’s sports and team sports in particular. And you’re right it’s much more than just Caitlin Clark, even though she is the driving force behind all of it. And she would be the first person to tell us that because she is so self-effacing and all about the others as well. And it’s going to be fun to watch the WNBA and of course the Mystics in about a month’s time when they get going.

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