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Andrea Austria / Media Matters

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Right-wing media hurl attacks at the WNBA amid the league's popularity surge

Right-wing media mock calls for increased salaries for its players and suggest that the league should not exist

Instead of celebrating the rising influence of women’s basketball, right-wing media seized on the highly anticipated draft to attack the WNBA and dismiss the low wages of some of basketball’s biggest stars. 

After a historic women’s NCAA tournament, the Women’s National Basketball Association draft drew substantial media attention both praising the rising influence of the league and criticizing the low wages of the league’s stars. Right-wing media chose to denigrate the sport and its players rather than engage with critiques of how women athletes are treated.

  • A surge in the popularity of women’s basketball has not been reflected in players’ salaries, sparking controversy

    • Since 2022, the popularity of college and professional women’s basketball has surged. In 2023, the WNBA experienced its highest regular season viewership in 21 years, with viewership up 21% over the 2022 season, and highest total attendance in more than a decade. In college basketball, viewership of the 2024 women’s NCAA basketball championship game surpassed viewership of the men’s championship game for the first time ever, with demand and pricing for tickets reflecting the surge in popularity. Sales of women’s basketball merchandise also soared. [WNBA, 9/13/23; Business Insider, 4/17/24]
    • The WNBA draft in April sparked controversy when viewers learned of the pay disparity between men and women in professional leagues. According to NBC News, No. 1 WNBA draft pick Caitlin Clark will earn $338,056 over four years after signing with the Indiana Fever. Meanwhile the NBA’s No. 1 draft pick will make $55 million over the course of his four-year contract. [NBC, 4/16/24; Spotrac, accessed 4/18/24]
  • Right-wing media figures attacked calls for increased WNBA salaries and dismissed the WNBA’s growth

    • OutKick founder Clay Travis claimed that Clark’s salary is justified because, “Just nobody cares about their profession.” Travis argued that when you look at salaries compared to revenue, “WNBA players actually make more than NBA players.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, 4/18/24]
    • Travis called Clark's $75,000 salary “a testament to the fact that this organization needs to exist to make Democrats and leftists feel better.” Travis also claimed, “The fact that the WNBA exists at all is a testament in many ways to, well, the government.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, 4/17/24]
    • Fox News contributor Tom Shillue dismissed outrage over the league’s comparatively low wages, saying, “Everything is as it should be.” He continued, saying that fans who are “spouting off” should “calm down.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 4/17/24]
    • The Daily Wire host Matt Walsh responded to criticism over WNBA salaries by declaring that the WNBA “shouldn't exist” and “nobody watches.” Walsh argued that WNBA players’ “actual fair share is nothing. Zero.” [The Daily Wire, The Matt Walsh Show, 4/17/24]
    • Conservative sports commentator Jason Whitlock posted on X, “The women are overpaid already at $75K a year. They’re trying to create a sense of entitlement in these women.” [Twitter/X, 4/17/24]
    • Right-wing X account, End Wokeness, argued that as a percentage of revenue, “WNBA players are overpaid.” [Twitter/X, 4/17/24]
    • The Daily Wire editor Bren Scher attacked President Joe Biden for calling out the wage discrepancy between the WNBA and the NBA, writing, “If wnba players paid their fair share, they would be paying to play the game.” [Twitter/X, 4/16/24]
    • Right-wing journalist and author Alex Berenson complained, “Women don’t deserve anything.” He posted on X: “God you’re dumb @nhannahjones Women don’t deserve anything. Athletes get paid on the revenue they make and women’s sports make far less than men’s, so total pay is far lower. That’s changing some for WBB and Caitlin Clark will benefit. Meanwhile she’ll make bank from sponsors.” [Twitter/X, 4/16/24]
  • Right-wing media used the discussion about the WNBA to push anti-trans attacks

    • BlazeTV host Lauren Chen remarked, “Wait, is Caitlin Clark not trans?” She then added, “I just assumed she/he? was because usually people only talk about women's sports and their very successful athletes when it's a trans person involved.” [Twitter/X, 4/17/24]
    • Right-wing sports outlet Outkick posted a video of WNBA fans voicing support for allowing trans women to play in the league with the caption, “WNBA fans may want to check again on what the W stands for…” [Twitter/X, 4/16/24]
    • Right-wing sports commentator Dan Dakich accused the WNBA of giving into “public woke bullshit” after denying an Outkick reporter a credential following an anti-trans question. [Twitter/X, 4/16/24]
    • Speaking at a Young America’s Foundation event, conservative sports pundit Blain Crain said, “If you let men into women's sports, Caitlin Clark would not be a thing.” [Twitter/X, 4/11/24]
    • The Five co-host Jesse Watters joked that fellow co-host Greg Gutfeld would only watch women’s basketball “if there was a dude out there just ripping down boards, elbowing women in the face.” Dana Perino responded, “Imagine that all of a sudden they go to the WNBA after the draft, and next year they're getting dunked on by transgenders. I mean — and you think there wouldn't be an outrage?” [Fox News, The Five, 4/9/24]
    • Podcaster Liz Wheeler posted that if trans women are allowed to play in the WNBA then “women will be pushed out of women’s bball.” Wheeler wrote on X: “Every WNBA player should be asked: ‘Do you think biological men who identify as women should be allowed to play women’s basketball?’ If they say ‘yes’ then ask: ‘Do you think you’ll have a job when men dominate the WNBA?’ (Hint: NO, women will be pushed out of women’s bball.)” [Twitter/X, 4/7/24]