The wage gap in sports

(Graphic by Alex Dascalu/AQ)

Earlier this spring, superstar baseball player Mike Trout signed the largest contract in North American sports worth $432 million. That’s $36 million per year, for 12 years. A half billion dollar contract was fair, considering he’s one of the best players in baseball and compared to other superstar contracts such as Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, who signed contracts that will make them $300 million richer in the next decade.

Tennis legend Serena Williams, who has won more Grand Slam single titles than anyone, made $18.1 million last year. But, $18 million was from endorsements, such as Nike, Wilson and Pepsi. The rest was prize money.

Is there a wage gap in sports? Well, it’s complicated.


At face value, there’s a clear wage gap. The average salary in the National Basketball Association player is about $6.4 million. In the Women’s National Basketball Association, it’s just $71,635.

But this isn’t necessarily about gender. It’s about league revenue, endorsements and the amount the league gives out to their players.

In 2019, the NBA raked in $8 billion from things such as ticket sales, television and radio deals to broadcast their games and merchandise. The WNBA is nowhere near as profitable.

The total revenue made by the WNBA is $60 million. LeBron James’ NBA contract will pass that mark in two years. If you don’t have the money, you can’t give out big contracts.

The women’s players also have a collective bargaining agreement, and only receive about 20 per cent of the profits, while in the NBA, 50 per cent of the revenue goes to the players. Out of the $60 million the WNBA brought in, $12 million is shared between approximately 140 players. That’s an average salary of nearly $72,000 for a WNBA player compared to an NBA player’s $6.4 million.

The United States soccer teams

The world champion United States Women’s Soccer team sued United States Soccer in March for gender discrimination.

While the women’s national team made $50.8 million, the men’s team made $49.9 million. With such little difference, you’d think they’d at the very least make roughly the same amount. But in fact, the men can make up to $300 thousand each. The women less than a quarter of that, earning $40 thousand each.

Imagine the best women’s soccer team in the world makes less than a team who didn’t even qualify for the world cup. That’s just salt in the wound.