As NBA free agents have signed mega-million dollar contracts the last few weeks, the social commentary has turned to the salary disparity between the NBA and WNBA.
The average WNBA salary is $75,000 with a maximum of $115,000. In the NBA, the rookie minimum is roughly $830,000.
But the mothers behind WomenHoopToo! are realists. They understand the business of sports. The NBA generated $7.4 billion in 2017, according to Forbes, while the WNBA is reported to have generated around $51 million.
They don’t expect identical salaries, but they would at least like identical distribution
The NBA collective bargaining agreement states that players must receive at least 50 percent of the league’s basketball-related income. Meanwhile, the WNBA players receive around only 20 percent.
“We are not asking for billions of dollars like the NBA players are making. We don’t have that revenue they make from the television people and sponsors. But it would be nice if the top 15 WNBA players are maybe starting to have $500,000,” Gwendolyn Loyd said. “That would put more players in a position to let them have an option of if they want to play overseas and not have to go to subsidize their salaries.”
The apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree in the Loyd family when it comes to marketing strategies to increase the WNBA’s visibility and revenue.
It was Jewell Loyd who suggested to WNBA President Lisa Borders last year that the league livestream games on Twitter.
A few months later, the WNBA became the first women’s professional sports league to ink a rights deal with Twitter on a three-year contract to stream 20 regular-season games through 2019.
Gwendolyn Loyd did not tell her daughter about the Women Hoop Too! Movement she was starting. She wanted Jewell to be fully focused on the season with the Storm. But Jewell wasn’t surprised when she spotted a few things on social media about the initiative.
“My mom and family have been my biggest fans for years and they have been more involved in the league since I joined,” Jewell Loyd told High Post Hoops. “They know the ins and outs of the salary cap and everything that goes into it. They have all worked in corporate America and have seen the different disparity in men’s pay and women’s pay. I think it’s great they are trying to encourage more people to come to the games and help us increase our pay.”
As important as it is to get people to attend games, Jewell still believes the WNBA can do more to get more games televised.
“People know a lot more about the college players because more of their games are on TV. You can always find a channel with a game on,” Jewell Loyd said. “We have been on Twitter a lot and been on ESPN some nights, but the more WNBA games that are televised can help us reach more people and make them realize, ‘this is the real deal.’ If you can’t see something, you don’t really believe it. We need more people to see the talent and hard work and respond to it. The NBA guys comes watch and rave about us. I think if more people see the games, the more they would respect us.”
Playing overseas has become a necessity for a large majority of WNBA players to supplement their income. Along with the toll it takes on their bodies and the strain it puts on families, Gwendolyn Loyd believes it hurts the WNBA from a publicity perspective.
“The girls don’t have enough time to do anything here to build relationships with the fans. They can’t do any humanitarian work when they are overseas for nine months,” she said. “There needs to be a heavy focus on these connections locally throughout the year. When the season ends, the girls are gone and there is no pushing for the WNBA or trying to connect with sponsors. Everything stops because they are overseas playing to make money.”
Gwendolyn Loyd and Apostolos both have backgrounds working in the Chicago public schools, and Loyd works for the United States Department of Defense during the summers.
They are not easily daunted by challenges, and are inspired to help lift others.
Changing the narrative around women’s professional sports has been a gradual process that entwines multiple societal forces.
But mothers have been a constant source of support, and channeling their passion is the spark behind the WomenHoopToo! movement.
Loyd and Apostolos plan to hold a meeting in the Chicago area in a few weeks and invite as many WNBA mothers as possible. They want to strategize and put a grassroots plan in place that can be used in various cities.
“We need to move from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset about what the WNBA is and what it needs to be moving forward,” Apostolos said. “These girls are not duplicating the guys. They are athletes who are good in their own right and deserve the respect and visibility for what they are doing.”
Although their movement is only in the infant stages, Loyd and Apostolos have already gained recognition for their efforts. Apostolos is a season ticket holder for the Chicago Sky and Loyd has season tickets for the Storm.
Coaches and players approach them at games to thank them for promoting the league, and people have reached out on Twitter (@womenhooptoo) to ask how to help.
They know some may question how much impact their movement can have, but they believe the power of mothers can’t be underestimated.
“We have to be about this business of making sure these women get visibility and awareness,” Apostolos said. “These are our daughters, our nieces, our cousins. If not us, then who?”