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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Even Joe Biden Is Surprised by Caitlin Clark Making $76K

  • Clark’s salary is negotiated through the league’s collective bargaining agreement. 
  • Even if the WNBA cleans up in its next media rights deal, it’s still far away from rivaling NBA salaries.
Jack Gruber-USA TODAY Sports

Caitlin Clark’s salary has made its way into the Oval Office.

On Tuesday night, President Joe Biden called for equal pay between elite men and women in sports. He didn’t mention Caitlin Clark by name, but it was clear who he was talking about.

“Women in sports continue to push new boundaries and inspire us all,” Biden posted. “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.”

Many were surprised by the straightforward news that Clark will earn just $76,535 as her WNBA salary this season. That’s the rookie salary locked in by the collective bargaining agreement, which was agreed to by the players and owners in January 2020. Clark, who was selected first overall by the Indiana Fever in Monday’s WNBA Draft, will see her salary increase annually as part of a four-year, $338,056 deal, which stems from the league’s collective bargaining agreement.

For comparison, Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NBA draft is making $12 million this season as part of a four-year $55 million rookie scale contract. 

Speaking to reporters on Monday night, commissioner Cathy Engelbert discussed the league’s upcoming media rights deal and corporate sponsorship opportunities, which could bring more revenue to the league and as a result increase player salaries in future labor deals. Players can opt out of the current CBA after the 2025 season, but even if the new media rights deal eclipses $100 million as Engelbert hopes, it’s going to take a long time for Biden’s hope for WNBA salaries to rival the NBA’s. 

“For the WNBA specifically, I would say that, even though it’s been around for now 27 years, it’s still a startup league compared to the NBA,” Clara Wu Tsai, the New York Liberty co-owner, told The Washington Post in November. “And when you look at the economics of the WNBA, almost along all dimensions, from team revenues to player salaries, the economics are one-one hundredth that of the NBA. So, if the WNBA grew to just 10 percent of the size of the NBA, that would still be a 10x return on investment.”

Clark will still make plenty of money from endorsements, which includes the likes of Nike, Hy-Vee, and State Farm. At Iowa, Clark’s NIL valuation was over $3 million, according to recruiting service On3. In March, The Athletic reported Clark’s sneaker deal could exceed $1 million annually, and she could also make money playing overseas if she chooses. Clark can also make up to $250,000 serving as an ambassador for the WNBA under provisions in the CBA designed to both market players and put more money in their pockets. 

Biden’s basketball fandom might not exceed that of former President Barack Obama, who Biden served as vice president under, but he’s shown his interest in the game over the years. In 2014, he called then-Syracuse guard Tyler Ennis to congratulate him on a game-winner against Pittsburgh. (Biden went to law school at Syracuse.) And a year ago, his wife, Jill, invited Clark’s Iowa team after losing to LSU in the national championship game, which she attended. Her husband tweeted an invite to LSU, with no mention of Iowa. 

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