CBS Evening News Frets Over Caitlin Clark’s Rookie Pay

April 18th, 2024 12:20 AM

The CBS Evening News has now entered into the national discussion over the disparity in pay between the NBA and the WNBA, bringing advocacy to the discussion of whether female athletes are automatically entitled to the same compensation as their male counterparts while ignoring market dynamics. 

Here is that report in its entirety, as aired on the CBS Evening News on Wednesday, April 17th, 2024 (click “expand” to view full transcript):

NORAH O’DONNELL: Basketball sensation Caitlin Clark has taken the women's game to new heights, but becoming the WNBA's top draft pick has brought attention to the pay disparity with the NBA. CBS's Jericka Duncan reports Clark held her first press conference today, where she talked about how the league can narrow the gap.

CAITLIN CLARK: This is a dream come true, like these are the moments you dream of. 

JERICKA DUNCAN: This could also be the moment the WNBA and women's professional sports has been waiting for. 

CLARK: I think the more eyeballs you can get on this league, you know, the better off this world is going to be. 

CATHY ENGLEBERT: The Indiana Fever select Caitlin Clark. 

DUNCAN: It was a ratings record when nearly 2.5 million people tuned in to watch as former Iowa guard Caitlin Clark was drafted by the Indiana Fever.  

When you look at the amount of revenue that the NBA is getting, they could move some of that money to the WNBA to invest.

A.J. ROSS: $76,000 is not enough for someone you are looking to be the face of the league going forward. No other professional sports league would do something like that, and it's a shame.

DUNCAN: The 22-year-old’s endorsement deals in college were worth more than $3 million. She'll now get a base salary as a rookie capped at $76,535. Last year's NBA number one draft pick, Victor Wembanyama, earned over $12 million. But the revenue from both leagues is not comparable. Last season, the WNBA brought in a reported $200 million… 

SPORTSCASTER: Ooh, look at this! 

DUNCAN: …while the NBA took in an estimated $10 billion. Clark's popularity could spark a change, enabling the player to get more revenue in their collective bargaining agreements and TV broadcast contracts. Both are up for renewal this year. 

CLARK: Obviously the new media rights deal, that can be negotiated, can be life changing for a lot of players in this league. 

DUNCAN: Which could be a welcome slam-dunk for everyone. Jericka Duncan, CBS News, New York.

It seems that the folks at the CBS Evening News could have benefitted from reading the related explainer on CBS News dot com, which dispels a lot of the pay gap propaganda swirling around this latest WNBA draft.

Today I learned, for example, that the WNBA regular season comprises fewer than half the games played by the NBA. 40 games to 82. Then there is the revenue disparity between leagues, which is why correspondent Jericka Duncan suggested the NBA simply redistribute some of its revenue to the WNBA- never mind that the league is already doing that.

Then there is the fretting that Clark lost her college endorsement deals. If true, this would suggest that Clark is getting no endorsement deals as a pro, which is simply not true. In fact, Clark is about to finalize an eight-figure endorsement deal from Nike. For those who are hard of math, that’s between $10,000,000 and $99,999,999. 

Then, there is upcoming collective bargaining, which sets pay based on such factors as revenue, attendance, and TV rights. And it was Clark herself who recognized this:

CLARK: Obviously the new media rights deal, that can be negotiated, can be life changing for a lot of players in this league. 

The tone and tenor of this reporting, generally, seems to evince an end of coercing the NBA, which has subsidized the WNBA for years, into coming up with an equal pay scheme not unlike what you see at USA Soccer. But these situations are entirely different from each other, and the WNBA is going to need time to build up before closing the pay gap. 

In the meantime, don’t worry about Caitlin Clark. She’s going to get paid well above and beyond the WNBA rookie salary.