First of all, much like many corporate giants, or "parent companies", own numerous other brand names as subsidiaries, the NBA owns the WNBA. They also own and operate a few of the individual teams. NBA commissioner David Stern and his minions basically call the shots, no pun intended, for everything that goes on in professional ladies' hoops. Big brother -- little sister indeed.
Sure, women's professional basketball doesn't generate anywhere near the public and/or media attention as their male counterparts, yet perhaps there are reasons for this.
The mighty NBA certainly doesn't go out of it's way to advertise and promote the WNBA, though it's technically one of their own. They might very well reason that, after all, most sports fans have a limited entertainment budget, and if they started showing up to watch those pesky ladies showing off their superb skills -- by financial necessity attendance might drop a bit at their male showcase games. Heaven forbid that should ever happen. It would be like people stopped paying big bucks to go see Disney movies at the theater in favor of attending a game which Disney's own adopted step-child ESPN had advertised. On the other hand, there are folks like Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots. Anybody that can save up, beg, borrow, and steal enough money to attend a Patriots' game is likely going to be reduced to eating his Kraft macaroni and cheese for a while after it's over. Talk about a win-win. No wonder he's a billionaire. The man's a marketing genius -- but I digress.
What I'm getting at is if the NBA wanted the WNBA to be more popular -- they would be. Further yet, the NBA sets the salaries for not only individual WNBA players, but the teams as well.
The latest figures yours truly could find reveal the following:
In the WNBA, a player with two years or less seniority, including rookies of course, like Brittney Griner is about to be, has a minimum salary of $37,500. And a max of $55,000. Players with 3 years or more of experience, regardless of team or talent, are capped at $95,000. Nobody in the WNBA makes a 6-figure salary.
At that, the NBA has also determined the ladies' team minimums and maximums. Every WNBA club must spend at least $869,000 per year on player salaries, but cannot exceed $913,000. A rather narrow window. Conversely, the NBA, with it's vast mysterious labyrinth of rules -- and exceptions to those very same rules, seems to know no such bounds. The LA Lakers have a team payroll of over $100,000,000. The Cleveland Cavaliers check in at less than half that. Sure, Cleveland's no good, but the Okla City Thunder are at a $66M payroll. Not to mention the $70M LA Clippers which have recently transformed the Lakers from showtime to no time in the same building. Translation? While throwing scads of money at athletes may bring public attention, it doesn't always guarantee success. The late George Steinbrenner of the NY Yankees might be a good example of that.
In stark contrast to Brittney Griner, even the 20th overall pick in this year's NBA draft will be guaranteed a minimum salary of about $1,134,000. Evidently, though still unproven at the pro level, that guy will be worth more than the combined salaries of any WNBA team. The #1 overall pick in the NBA draft? He'll be guaranteed a minimum of about $4.3 million in his first year, not counting signing bonuses and other financial shenanigans, before he ever even sets foot on an NBA floor.
Most draft analysts predict that young man will be Nerlens Noel, yet another of Kentucky's "one and dones". He's still currently recovering from major knee surgery following a torn ACL a few months ago.
Evidently, a mere male college freshman, and damaged goods at that, is worth more in his first year in the NBA than the total player payrolls of 4 entire WNBA teams.
And excuse me if I think there is something seriously wrong with that picture.