ARTICLE
30 April 2024

EntertainHR: Caitlin Clark Fever And The Gender Wage Gap

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Ford & Harrison LLP

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FordHarrison is a labor and employment firm with attorneys in 29 offices, including two affiliate firms. The firm has built a national legal practice as one of the nation's leading defense firms with an exclusive focus on labor law, employment law, litigation, business immigration, employee benefits and executive compensation.
As a proud South Carolinian, I was delighted to watch the undefeated Gamecocks women's basketball team take home another NCAA Championship this year.
United States Employment and HR
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As a proud South Carolinian, I was delighted to watch the undefeated Gamecocks women's basketball team take home another NCAA Championship this year. Being the parent of a budding female athlete (when my daughter isn't busy finishing fourth grade) and basketball fan made the Gamecocks' headline-grabbing journey to the NCAA finals all the more exciting.

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However, my family and I could not help but also catch some Caitlin Clark fever after watching her sink a game-winning, buzzer beating three-point shot against Michigan State. Dawn Staley, Hall of Famer and head coach of the reigning champions, referred to Clark as a G.O.A.T. and expressed her appreciation for Clark's contributions to the sport, even as Staley celebrated her own team's hard-fought victory in a game where viewership crushed the men's final for the first time in NCAA history.

It should come as no surprise that Clark (the Division I all-time leading scorer for men's and women's basketball) was the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft on April 15, 2024. Even before she was officially selected by the Indiana Fever, the team's ticket prices were surging with average resale ticket prices reportedly costing more than triple what they did a year prior. With USC's Kamilla Cardoso and LSU's Angel Reese both heading to the Chicago Sky, you better score your tickets to their June match-up against the Indiana Fever now before they are surely gone.

But do not expect these stars' payroll earnings to look anything like that of their NBA counterparts. As this blogger has previously covered with regard to women's soccer, gender pay equity continues to be a point of heated debate in women's professional sports. The question is whether the addition of high-profile players like Clark, Cardoso, and Reese (with a history of bringing record-breaking fan viewership to the sport) now shake things up both on and off the court.

Even before the NCAA finals, the Big3 announced that it was offering Clark $5 million for eight games, which would make her the very first woman to play in an American men's professional basketball league. Big3 co-founder, Ice Cube, has reportedly confirmed that the offer to Clark still stands and that it is a reflection of his genuine fandom and sharp business acumen. ADWeek has quoted Ice Cube as saying he is "making sure if you're gonna invite them to dinner, you better not have no f****** paper plates. Pull out the good stuff."

While Ice Cube is rolling out the crystal and fine china, Clark's four-year contract with the WNBA's Indiana Fever is reportedly worth a total of $338,056, with the average NBA player earning millions. Reasons given for this disparity typically boil down to profit margin differences between the NBA and WNBA and the negotiated terms of the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA). However, if college stars like Clark, Cardoso, and Reese are able to bring their college fan base to the professional arena, we may see that pay gap narrowing.

The current CBA runs through 2027. However, there is an opt-out provision with a November 1st deadline that could mean the current CBA would expire after the 2025 season. In the meantime, let me know if you have any extra Fever and Sky tickets, and excuse me while I scour the internet for new fan gear.

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