Photo by John McClellan via Flickr

‘Clark Fever’ is rising, so should her pay

By Fabiola Aceves, April 30, 2024

With “Clark Fever” on the rise, it’s no surprise that the WNBA and other women’s sports have gained a bigger audience, yet there is still a discrepancy when it comes to equal pay.

After former University of Iowa star Caitlin Clark was selected first overall in the WNBA draft by the Indiana Fever, social media erupted with outrage over the news that she would only earn just over $76,000 in her rookie year. Since the draft, there has been consistent scrutiny on the pay gap in the world of professional basketball.

According to, the average salary for a National Men’s Basketball Association player is $9.6 million while the average salary for a WNBA player is $102,751. That means the average player in the NBA makes more than 93 times the average in the WNBA, and that is not counting the additional income that players receive from sponsorships and endorsements.

Robert Lewis, an associate professor of history at Cal Poly Pomona who specializes in the history of sports, explained how there is also a difference in the salary cap between both associations due to broadcast rights. In broadcast rights, the NBA earns close to $2.7 billion while the WNBA only earns $60 million, and that difference in media coverage plays a big part in setting the standard for rookie salaries.

“I think that it is alluded to,” said Lewis. “It’s the perceived value of television broadcasting rights and internet streaming rights. That’s really what’s setting the salary structure.”

The salary structure in the WNBA is also very different from the NBA’s salary structure. While the National Basketball Players Association’s collective bargaining agreement with the NBA guarantees players at least 50% of the league’s revenue, the Women’s National Basketball Players Association’s CBA only guarantees players a share of revenue if the league surpasses its “cumulative revenue target.” An article published in Forbes found that since the WNBA rarely reaches this target, players effectively only receive 10% of league revenue.

The lack of media coverage in women’s sports can also be correlated to gender ideology. Most people tend to believe that women’s sports are less competitive and less interesting than men’s. However, this year’s March Madness proved otherwise.

While both the NCAA men’s and women’s tournaments were going on at the same time, the buzz seemed to only be around the women’s tournament, as pointed out by assistant professor of sociology Sekani Robinson, who teaches classes at CPP on social inequality in sports.

According to SportsPro Media, the men’s college basketball final between the University of Connecticut and Purdue University drew 14.82 million viewers whereas the women’s final between Iowa and the University of South Carolina drew 18.87 million viewers, the highest viewership in the history of women’s basketball. This year also marks the first time the women’s March Madness final outperformed the men’s final in terms of viewership.

The rise in interest in the WNBA has called the attention of other networks to want to hop on the trend of supporting them and showcasing their talent. According to, the WNBA believes that its current media rights have been undervalued and that the rise of Caitlin Clark in the league will increase its popularity. With the upcoming renegotiations, the WNBA is looking to expand its opportunities with either Disney or a different competitor.

This is not the first time that there has been a discussion about equal pay for women’s sports. The most recent discussion came in the world of soccer amidst scrutiny on the salaries of players for the United States Women’s National Team compared to the United States Men’s National Team. During the World Cup, the USMNT was allowed to earn up to $30 million while the USWNT was only allowed to earn up to $6 million. The United States Soccer Association was able to establish equal pay for both teams; however, not when it came to the FIFA World Cup because that is a different association.

Women’s sports have been growing both in interest and within male-dominated leagues. In August 2023, the Professional Women’s Hockey League was established, with its six charter franchises located in Boston, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Montreal, New York City, Ottawa and Toronto.

The league drew in a crowd of 19,285 fans Feb. 16, outranking the highest crowds in the history of the NCAA and the Olympics. However, it was during a Toronto game versus Montreal at the Bell Centre April 20 where the current record was set with a crowd of 21,105 fans in attendance.

“It’s very much supply and demand, right,” said Robinson regarding the growing interest helping the push for a change in women’s sports. “So it’s like if we can tell that people want this, then we can supply more, we can give them more, we can support them more,”

Although the interest in the WNBA and women’s sports continues to grow, it does not change the way the public feels about the topic overall.

“I mean there are still real structural inequities, inequalities that women face in just getting started in sports,” said Lewis. “I think there is a lot of distance that still needs to be covered.”

The rise of “Clark Fever” shows that women’s sports can draw just as much attention as men’s sports, and with a new era of basketball on the rise, there’s more scrutiny than ever on equal pay within the world of women’s sports.

Feature image courtesy of John McClellan

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