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This year’s WNBA Draft and the resulting contracts for the top selected players have sparked outrage about equal pay along gender lines.

But one overlooked aspect of the raging discussion is how the low salaries compared to their NBA counterparts is exactly the reason why so many WNBA players also choose to compete overseas, where the compensation is exponentially more.

That’s exactly why basketball star Brittney Griner was playing for a professional team in Russia, where she was notably arrested in 2022 for allegations of drug possession.

WNBA salaries

The topic of WNBA salaries hit a fever pitch in the hours after star college player Caitlin Clark was selected number one overall in the league’s annual draft on Monday night.

After inking a rookie scale contract with the Indiana Fever, Clark is expected to earn a grand total of $338,056 during the course of four years. Broken down annually, Clark, 22, will make $76,535 this year, $78,066 in 2025, $85,873 in 2026 and $97,582 in 2027 as a fourth-year option left up to the team.

Angel Reese, the college basketball darling who led LSU to a national championship last year and was selected seventh overall in this year’s WNBA Draft, signed a four-year, $324,383 contract with the Chicago Sky and will earn slightly less than Clark.

Those figures, of course, are chump change compared to the rookie scale contract for Victor Wembanyama, the top overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. The San Antonio Spurs gave the 20-year-old French sensation who is more popularly known as “Wemby” a four-year contract worth more than $55 million.

It’s that type of pay disparity that not only sparked the outrage following the WNBA Draft but also is precisely the reason why players like Griner look overseas to play with foreign basketball clubs that guarantee them much more money.

Brittney Griner

In Griner’s case, her wife made it painfully clear why the 6-foot, 9-inch basketball star played in Russia during the WNBA offseason.

Despite her star status in the U.S. – she led the Phoenix Mercury to a WNBA championship in 2014, was named the league’s defensive player of the year in 2014 and 2015 and has been an all-star six times – the WNBA veteran played on the Russian UMMC Ekaterinburg team for several seasons leading up to her arrest.

Cherelle Griner said UMMC Ekaterinburg paid her wife $1 million per season, more than triple what Brittney was earning per year in the WNBA.

“BG would wholeheartedly love to not go overseas,” Cherelle Griner told ABC News months into Brittney Griner detention in Russia. “She has only had one Thanksgiving in the States in nine years since she’s been pro, and she misses all that stuff. Just because, you know, she can’t make enough money in the WNBA, like, to sustain her life.”

Brittney Griner later expounded on that topic.

“I’ll say this…the whole reason a lot of us go over is the pay gap,” she said last year following her release from Russia. “A lot of us go over there to make an income, to support our families, to support ourselves…and it’s a shame that we have to leave our families for holidays. I mean you’re missing everything being away. And at the same time, as much as I would love to pay my light bill for the love of the game, I can’t, you know?”

Equal pay disparities beyond basketball

The national equal pay disparities transcend basketball and extend into all business sectors, particularly along racial lines as Black women make up 70% of the players in the WNBA.

Based on Census data from 2022, Black women earn 67 cents for every dollar earned by non-Hispanic white men in full-time, year-round positions. On average, Black women were paid 64% of what non-Hispanic white men earned in 2021, according to the American Association of University Women.

This is America.


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Jason Whitlock Defends Caitlin Clark From ‘Racists’ While Hating On Black Women In Sports

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