Outside of the Super Bowl, March Madness may be the most exciting and fun sporting event of the year. It’s always fun to cheer for the underdogs that nobody saw coming advance deep into the tournament. This year there is no doubt who everyone’s attention was focused on. Her name was Caitlin Clark. She captured the hearts of nearly all Americans as few athletes have in recent memory.

However, in the past week she has been the focus of attention for a different reason. Unfortunately, like just about everything else today we have injected politics into something that was unifying us, and is now something that is dividing us. This past Wednesday a record 2.4 million television viewers watched as Clark was drafted by the Indiana Fever as the first overall pick in the WNBA Draft. Rather than celebrate her accomplishment, some used it as an opportunity to declare her a victim of sexist wage gaps between men and women.

President Biden among others expressed his outrage about the pay disparity between NBA players and WNBA saying women in sports are not paid their fair share. Believe it or not, I agree with President Biden WNBA players are not paid their fair share. As an unapologetic believer in the free market system, I believe they are actually paid more than they deserve.

Hear me out before you start sending angry letters to the paper. It is true that the average salary of a WNBA player which is $147,745 is drastically less than the average NBA player who makes about 9.7 million. However, the disparity is even greater in the profits made between the NBA which posted revenue of 10 billion in 2023 and profits of 3 billion, and the WNBA, which posted total revenue of 200 million last year and has never generated a profit in its almost three decades of existence. In fact, without the subsidizing of the WNBA by the NBA, its players would be forced to play for even less just to remain in business.

I know its easy to see men being paid significantly more to play the same game and assume sexism is at the root of the wage gap. But it’s simply not true. I would argue it has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with the value being produced by the product.

Consider the newly formed UFL Spring football league. The highest paid player is making $74,000 a year. A far cry from the highest paid NFL player who is making $55 million a year. If they are both playing the same game, shouldn’t they each be paid the same? The answer is no. One league has hundreds of thousands attending games each week and hundreds of millions watching on TV, while the other does not.

The fact that so many tuned in to watch Caitlin Clark play in the tournament, is evidence she has the star power worthy of being paid millions of dollars in salary. Her $75,000 salary has nothing to do with the free market not paying her what she is worth. Instead, it everything to do with fixed salaries that have been established by the collective bargaining agreement between the players union and the owners which eliminates the ability of young players to negotiate their own salaries based on their talent or ability to generate revenue.

This guarantee of equal pay for all draft picks is the antithesis of the fairness a free market produces. If I had my way, all players coming out of school would be allowed to sign with any team they want, for any amount of money they can get. Just as any student coming out of law school can.

Unfortunately, too many Americans have become convinced that equal outcome is the goal, not equal opportunity. I want Caitlin Clark to be paid more. I believe she has earned it. I also want all women athletes to be paid more. Most of them, however, have not earned it yet. Until they can convince more people to consume their product and care about their performances they will continue to be paid less. Not only is that fair, it is right.


(Past performance is no guarantee of future results. The advice is general in nature and not intended for specific situations)