Jeff Ruane

Should WNBA players make more money?

Micahel Porter Jr. is a well known weirdo and a decent, albeit highly overpaid, offensive oriented forward on the Denver Nuggets. Let's run down some of the weird shit he's done:

So, he's a devoutly religious contrarian with an obnoxiously high opinion of himself. He's not the first NBA player to fit that mold, and he's pretty easy to ignore off the court. Predictably, he's once again set off a shit storm, this time for discussing the pay gap between WNBA and NBA players, and it has spawned a torrent of bad takes.

A lot of the outrage has been around the use of the word "female" instead of "woman," and the bizarre comparison to professional ping-pong players (who, incidentally, are better paid than the highest paid WNBA player). Those things are obnoxious, but he's not the most eloquent guy, so maybe it was just poor phrasing.

My bigger issue is how he's framing the question itself. He was not asked if WNBA players should be paid the same as NBA players, he was asked if he had thoughts on the wages that they are currently paid. So he ends up rambling about WNBA viewership, or lack thereof, and although he "advocates for the respect of their craft", he insists "you can't pay them the same."

This framing, comparing salaries of players in the two leagues, is a really odd way to take this question, and so many of the bad takes I see boil down to "he's right, nobody watches it, where would the money come from to pay them more?" And sure, that's true, but it's an argument against a strawman. Nobody thinks the WNBA can print money. But how can he call himself an "advocate," and then immediately throw up his hands and say it's an unfixable problem.

He could've taken this question in a completely different direction. Like how the WNBA could increase viewership by rebranding itself as a different game than the NBA, where different skills and strategies are emphasized and rewarded, as opposed to a less physical version of the NBA1 . He could've mentioned that the minimum salary needs to be raised, even marginally, maybe through a revenue sharing program like the first host mentions. There is very little incentive for a talented NCAAW player to go into the WNBA. Caitlin Clark aside, they'd be dedicating their entire life to just the hope and the prayer that they'd land a job that pays $64k for the first two years in the league. The talent pool would significantly expand if that minimum salary were increased2. He could've talked about how to support the player's union in their next CBA.

There are any number of ways he could've answered that question in a productive, empathetic, supportive way. Instead he makes it about men's basketball, and even agrees with the second host that the game isn't as exciting. That's why his remarks were shitty. It's not because of "wokism" or "cancel culture" or whatever, it's because he's so incredibly self centered that he can't even contextualize the question without putting himself in the middle of it.

Also, he's wrong that it's not as exciting. Go watch JuJu Wakins and tell me she doesn't have a better shot than Mike. Go watch Jaylyn Sherrod and tell me she's not a million times more clutch than Mike and can actually defend. And Caitlin Clark is selling out arenas everywhere she goes. It's a different game, but incredibly compelling.

  1. Which is clearly how he sees it, he even mentions he'd like to see "a girl coming down the lane banging into another"

  2. In fairness, the WNBA Players Association made huge strides in their 2020 CBA around salary, paid travel, and maternity leave.

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