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    Wednesday, May 22, 2024

    Come see Caitlin Clark at Mohegan for (at least) $126

    News item: Tickets for the Connecticut Sun’s season opener against the fighting Caitlin Clarks of Indiana (May 14 at Mohegan Sun Arena) range from $126-$586 apiece on the ticket portal of the Sun’s website. On StubHub, they are ranging from $95-$924. (Consider that for the Sun’s following home game against Washington, tickets start at $24 on StubHub.)

    Perhaps some of you just winced.

    But if you inhabit the camp advocating that disparate salaries among WNBA and NBA players are scandalous, you should be blaring trumpets. Revenues, they are a comin’ for women’s basketball, thanks to the revolution and Clark, its pied piper. And with increased revenue — make that consistent increased revenue — comes more money for the players.

    Clark’s rookie salary from the Fever has become a cause celebre this week. She is slated to make $76,535 (for four months’ work), which is lunch money compared to Victor Wembanyama, the first pick of the NBA Draft last June, making more than $10 million.

    This has drawn the ire of many pundits and politicos, whose general hyperventilating should be mitigated by the following: Clark is about to sign an eight-figure endorsement deal from Nike. And that Clark, according to published reports, had name, image and likeness (NIL) numbers at $3.4 million by the time she left Iowa. Translation: It’s unlikely she’ll need a telethon to put food on the table.

    Still, questions of the gender gap in professional sports persist, especially among WNBA and NBA players and their salaries. It’s led to apocalyptic howls of unfairness, which, while perhaps rhetorically effective, do not reflect the leagues’ relative landscapes. To wit: The NBA has far superior revenue streams, more than twice as many teams and has been in existence 50 more years.

    The NBA’s yearly revenues approach $10 billion; the WNBA’s $200 million. The NBA’s media deals are worth nearly $3 billion; the WNBA’s $65 million. If you digest those numbers, how could a rational person (admittedly in declining legions) possibly conclude that WNBA players’ salaries should be commensurate?

    Many WNBA players, unlike the game’s keepers of the gate, acknowledge they shouldn’t be paid the same, but simply want a greater percentage of the league profits. The leagues’ respective collective bargaining agreements allow NBA players 50% of overall revenues, while WNBA players receive 10%.

    The players make a fair point, except to say that NBA revenues are more consistent and sustained, perhaps making ownership more comfortable in that model. WNBA profits continue to grow and perhaps the league will give players a higher percentage for the next agreement. But for now, I’d make WNBA owners prudent, not punitive.

    Here’s the problem: The facts aren’t quelling the pangs of self-entitlement. Pundits and politicos alike rarely miss the opportunity to rain the “it’s not fair!” salvos like hailstones on the rest of us. Even President Biden, who apparently doesn’t have other sufficient concerns, took his turn at pandering this week.

    “Women in sports continue to push new boundaries and inspire us all,” Biden wrote on X (formerly Twitter). “But right now we’re seeing that even if you’re the best, women are not paid their fair share. It’s time that we give our daughters the same opportunities as our sons and ensure women are paid what they deserve.”

    The idea that the leader of the free world needs an economics lesson — or who knows the economics and can’t resist nonetheless — offers an insight as to our country’s current plight. It’s not about what anybody deserves. It’s what the business cycle allows.

    Biden and all his like-minded thinkers ought to be celebrating the increased revenues in women’s basketball. The women had better television ratings than the men during March Madness. Clark is becoming a pop culture icon, the WNBA is coming off its most-watched regular season in 21 years. Attendance last season hit its highest level in 13 years. League officials are talking expansion.

    They ought to be downright giddy that tickets for Clark’s first game here in our corner of the world are in triple digits. Maybe it’s not such good news for those of us with modest salaries who may not be able to afford to go. But somebody is, based on the number of tickets sold already. Straight up: If they really want to close the salary gap, this is more positive news.

    I admit to growing tired of the entitlement, though. Monday night, not too long before the WNBA Draft, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski broke news via X that the 2024 Paris Olympic men’s basketball national team roster — with names — was nearing completion. Upon reading it, Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle replied, “Don’t steal the women’s shine tonight.”

    As if breaking news had no place until the WNBA Draft was complete. Sense of proportion here, anyone?

    Happily, the women’s game appears to be advancing quicker than many who are covering it. The ratings are better. Attendance is better. Interest never greater. And now here comes Caitlin Clark to Neon Uncasville with NBA-level ticket prices. Ah, progress.

    This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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