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Golden touch

SPORTS | Caitlin Clark could boost salaries of female athletes

Caitlin Clark Keith Gillett / Icon Sportswire / AP

Golden touch
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IN THE RAGING debate over equal pay in professional sports, one side argues that female athletes should only earn what their male counterparts do when they generate as much revenue as men do.

With Caitlin Clark on the court in the Women’s National Basketball Association starting this spring, that could soon happen.

The University of Iowa senior is unquestionably raising the profile of women’s basketball. Iowa’s home arena was sold out on March 3, when Clark surpassed Louisiana State’s Pete Maravich as the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer—male or female—in the Hawkeyes’ 93-83 victory over Ohio State.

A packed house was also on hand to see Clark set the NCAA Division I’s single-season 3-point record on March 8 against Penn State in the Big Ten Conference tournament.

Clark, who leads the nation in both scoring and assists, was a major reason why last year’s NCAA Division I women’s tournament drew record-high television ratings, even as ratings for the men’s tournament fell. Viewership of college women’s basketball is up 60 percent this year. Sales of Clark’s jersey and other merchandise featuring her name, image, or likeness (“NIL”) are shattering records for a female athlete.

And yet, when Clark joins the WNBA after this year’s March Madness tournament—likely as the top overall pick, which belongs to the Indiana Fever—the 6-foot guard’s net worth will go up only slightly: Clark is presently earning $818,000 thanks to NIL deals with such brands as Nike and Gatorade. The maximum salary for WNBA players, by contrast, is roughly $235,000—a far cry from the roughly $1.12 million minimum salary NBA players earn.

—This story has been corrected to reflect that the 2023 NCAA Division I women’s tournament drew record-high TV ratings but still fell short of the men’s tournament viewership.

Video screen capture

Girls in the game

Major League Baseball has women in its front offices and coaching staffs. One, former Miami Marlins general manager Kim Ng, even ran a team.

None, though, has made it to the majors as a player. So it’s perhaps surprising that the 2024 version of the video game franchise MLB The Show allows players to create female characters who can navigate their way through the minor leagues to the majors.

“For the first time ever, you can create and play as a female ballplayer, with a unique Road to the Show story that evolves with the player over the course of your career,” says a release for MLB The Show 24.

Kelsie Whitmore, who became the first female player in an MLB Partner League when she played left field for the Staten Island FerryHawks in 2022, helped develop the game’s female player mode. She hopes the game, released for Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo on March 19, will inspire baseball-playing girls to chase their dreams. —R.H.

Ray Hacke

Ray is a sports correspondent for WORLD who has covered sports professionally for three decades. He is also a licensed attorney who lives in Keizer, Ore., with his wife Pauline and daughter Ava.



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