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Butler prof: ‘Huge potential’ for WNBA in Caitlin Clark draft class

Butler Prof on Caitlin Clark

Dr. Lee Farquhar discusses salaries of WNBA Players

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — As Caitlin Clark’s arrival in Indianapolis sparks new conversations about salaries for athletes, a professor at Butler University sees a unique opportunity for the WNBA and its players.

“This seems to be a confluence of a lot of factors coming together to get a lot of excitement – but also reignite the conversation,” said Lee Farquhar, associate professor for Butler University’s Pulliam School of Journalism and Creative Media.

Farquhar joined WISH-TV’s Daybreak on Thursday for a frank talk about the pay gap between men and women in professional sports.

Clark and the other young stars in her draft class will start with salaries that cannot cover the tax bills of their NBA counterparts. Clark’s salary is slated to be a bit more than $76,000; NBA No. 1 Victor Wembanyama is getting more than $12 million as a rookie.

If the WNBA salaries are to pull any closer to parity, Farquhar points to the weight of history as one major hurdle to clear.

“Certainly, the NBA has had roughly 50 more years of opportunity for growth and building history and building fan bases, growing internationally,” he said. “The NBA makes roughly $10 billion, with a ‘B’, while the WNBA (makes) around 200 million.”

In basketball terms, the NCAA has delivered the WNBA the equivalent of a spectacular assist: the largest-ever TV audience for the women’s tournament. Carrying the analogy further, it’s now up to the WNBA to score.

“What you need to examine is what led to that huge rating,” he said. “Certainly Caitlin Clark (is) historic and record-breaking. But the NCAA tournament really set up nicely for rivalries to pan out. So rematches with LSU, rematches with South Carolina. So lots of storylines brought that audience in. So the question will be on the WNBA side, are there going to be the storylines that bring the audience there as well?”

If Clark’s draft class lives up to its billing, it may also be the first to be able to fully focus on the WNBA.

Even the biggest names currently in the game often play overseas in the offseason, making far more than they do stateside. Many new draftees have significant endorsement deals long before their predecessors did, largely because of rule changes allowing college athletes to profit off their own name, image, and likeness.

“What we need to focus on as well though, is (whether) the league making enough that all the players, even the ones that maybe don’t have the $3- to $5-million in NIL deals, are they able to sustain this as their sort of lone job, so to speak?” Farquhar said.