Just the other day I had my television turned on to the ESPN news show, Sportscenter, I was just getting changed for my 10:20 class when a developing story suddenly appeared. It was in regard to long time WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association) star Diana Taurasi’s decision to forego participating in the 2015 WNBA season.
Why, you may ask? MONEY.
The WNBA and Phoenix Mercury star has been playing year-round since 2004 after leading the Connecticut Huskies to three NCAA National Championships. Then soon after becoming the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft, she spent winters playing overseas, and summers helping the Mercury chase WNBA titles. In addition, there were three gold-medal runs with Team USA in 2004, 2008 and 2012. The reason why Taurasi and many other female players play overseas is because of the lack of salary that players in the WNBA receive. For the 2014 WNBA season, the 33-year-old made just under the league maximum of $107,000. But she makes 15 times that approximately $1.5 million playing overseas. Now she’ll make even more, as her Russian Premier League Team is essentially compensating Taurasi her WNBA salary. This certainly makes me worry about the state of the WNBA
That brings me to my next question, how much is a chromosome worth? Apparently it can be worth millions. A single chromosome is the only genetic difference between men and women. If Diana Taurasi had been born with XY chromosomes instead of XX, she might have been, well, another Dwayne Wade. That Y chromosome, in this case, equals about $29 million a year in salary. Let me put this in context for you readers out there. The average salary for a NBA player is about $5 million dollars and average salary for a WNBA player is about $72,000 dollars.
When we look at NBA athletes like Dwayne Wade and see that he makes $17.4 million dollars from his NBA salary alone. While even the most marketable WNBA star, Candace Parker, makes about $750,000 dollars to $1 million dollars per year (this includes her WNBA salary, sponsorship, endorsements and contract playing overseas). It makes one wonder have we really reached gender equality when it comes to women’s and men’s sports?
Even when we look the coverage of women in sports the focus is rarely focused on a woman’s athleticism, rather it is more focused on how attractive or sexy they are. This is especially exemplified when we look at the female athletes that have graced the cover of the prestigious Sports Illustrated (SI) magazine: When a woman is featured on the SI cover, she is most often either in a swimsuit or accompanied by a man. University of Louisville sociologists Jonetta D. Weber and Robert M. Carini looked at every national over from 2000 through 2011. Of the 716 issues that were published during this period, they reported that only 35 featured a female athlete.
And so the question remains: Will society accept and look at female athletes as being equals to male athletes?
Photo Credit: Rob Schumacher/The Arizona Republic, Trouble and Strife, Sports Illustrated.