This week, the internet passed around several quotes by WNBA stars who called out their NBA counterparts and asked for better pay. Those quotes are all very fake. Supposedly Dallas Wings player Skylar Diggins-Smith bagged on LeBron James for being unskilled, and Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner asked for “more respect” while taking a shot at “mediocre players” like Tyler Johnson for making $20 million per year.
The insidious thing here is that there really is a WNBA pay disparity, as players are severely limited by the six-figure salary cap. WNBA players only get 22 percent of basketball-related income, as opposed to the 50 percent afforded to NBA players. When the league’s talent goes abroad to play during the offseason, they can make significantly more money. The WNBA may be a smaller and less profitable league than the NBA, but the labor still deserves a bigger slice of the pie.
When Griner clarified that the Tyler Johnson quote was fake, she ended her post by simply stating, “I just know we don’t make shit.” In an interview with Wealthsimple last week, Diggins-Smith talked about the fight for better pay. “People try to hijack this issue and say that women’s basketball may not be as interesting a game, because they disparage women in sports, period,” she said. “But we don’t even make the same percentage of revenue!” Nothing she said resembled the fake quote attributed to her; she only referred to Dallas Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes but made sure to say she didn’t question the effort of NBA players.
I’m the highest paid player on the Dallas Wings, and my salary is in the low six figures. [Harrison Barnes, the highest paid player on the Dallas Mavericks, made $24 million last season.] He’s definitely younger than me. Do you know his stats? Was he an All-Star? I mean, it doesn’t matter. But last year, I was First Team All-WNBA, which only goes to five players. I was also a WNBA All-Star for the third time.
To think of that and then to see how the numbers translate for guys who are bench players, guys who never see the floor…
Not to discredit any work that they’ve put in, but you have women playing year-round basketball going overseas to have more opportunities for higher wages. I’ve never been overseas to play. I’m with Roc Nation, where I’m the only woman signed, and I take my off-season and use it to explore other opportunities, to work with different brands and explore different marketing opportunities that Roc Nation and I decided to pursue, like my basketball camps. But 90% of the league goes overseas. And so these women are playing year-round, which is terrible for your body. It’s so much wear and tear.
The purpose of the fabricated quotes wasn’t to draw attention to the labor woes of the WNBA world, but rather to create the perception that WNBA players are ungrateful, greedy athletes who are lashing out at NBA players out of a sense of jealousy. Diggins-Smith and Griner are obviously well aware of the factors that play into the financial gulf between NBA and WNBA players, and they know that calling LeBron James “unskilled” would be a wrongheaded way to tackle the gap.