Photo: Women’s Sports
I grew up in a family of hardcore sports fans. My siblings and I spent much of our childhoods on bleachers or huddled around the TV, it was a way for us to come together through something we all loved. Basketball was always my favorite, and, this year, my team was in the NBA Finals. My family’s group chat was constantly abuzz for months during playoffs and the finals, each of us watching no matter what city or state we were in. However, when the finals ended, it went silent. There was no more basketball to watch. Or was there?
The WNBA season starts up just as the NBA season is ending, so it should be a natural transition, right? If you’re sad that the basketball season is over, worry not! There’s a new one coming for you! At least, this was the mentality my sister and I had. We searched up the schedule for our local WNBA team and eagerly sat by the TV waiting for game time. But, when it came, the game was nowhere to be found. Upon another search, we found the reason why. “Connecticut Sun game – stream on FaceBook”… FaceBook? For a professional basketball game? Something’s wrong here.
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This Isn’t New
It’s no secret that women’s sports don’t get the same respect as men’s sports. Every big sporting event from March Madness to the Super Bowl is men’s sports, men’s sports are the default. The NBA is simply the NBA, there’s no need to qualify that it’s the NBA for men. An issue that’s been talked about with semi-regular frequency is the wage gap in sports. According to Yahoo Finance, the average WNBA player makes about $120,000 per season, with only 14 players breaking into $200,000. These salaries are impressive, of course, but let’s put things into perspective. According to ESPN, the average NBA salary is $7.5 million, and 17 players make at least $35 million each year. The women’s six figures seem insulting in comparison.
There’s plenty of reasons that this gap exists, just like the gender pay gap exists in nearly every other profession. But, in this case, broadcasting can be the root of a significant amount of the gap. Even as they make tens of millions of dollars each year, NBA players aren’t necessarily overpaid, as some may think. The NBA makes billions of dollars each year in revenue, this money is rightfully given back to the players. But, where does that money come from? To put it simply, the money comes from television. Television contracts alone could afford to pay each of the over 400 players, but the same can’t be said for the mere 144 WNBA salaries.
Women’s Sports – Searching for a Stream
It’s created a vicious cycle, really. The WNBA doesn’t get the media attention that the NBA does, the WNBA doesn’t get the same TV contracts, the WNBA doesn’t bring in billions in revenue, the WNBA doesn’t get media attention. And it keeps on going. If we don’t start broadcasting women’s sports, we will never achieve any sort of equality in professional athletics. We need to start somewhere, there’s a long, long way to go.
Whether I was at home, at work, at dinner, or even at the beach, I was able to watch an NBA game. When I moved into my dorm it took about 2 minutes to ensure my TV could stream all the games. When I wanted to watch a WNBA game, I foolishly expected the same accessibility. And, yes, the games are available. But they’re available on the league’s FaceBook and Twitter pages, that’s not nearly the same as a mainstream network. There’s no professional analysis, pre or post game shows with high levels of media attention. But, most importantly, no TV contracts. Streaming a game on social media for free is great if you want to watch, but when it comes to supporting the league, I’d much rather the same process as any men’s league; Cable access, a streaming subscription, or even heading to a local sports pub to catch the game there.
Not Every Situation is the Same
I’ll admit, while it is the league I’m most well versed in, my analysis of the WNBA in no way encompasses all women’s leagues. In some cases, including football, there isn’t a women’s league nearly as organized as the WNBA. The WNBA is at least affiliated with the NBA, an attempt at making a women’s version of the same organization. For football, professional women’s leagues exist independently, gaining nowhere near as much recognition as their male counterparts.
On the other hand, sports like tennis and gymnastics are ruled by women professionally. The women are given just as much respect as the men (but this still doesn’t mean they’re paid accordingly). Despite ever present pay gaps, this is a look into what the future of professional sports could be. Women and men respected equally for their talents, regardless of gender or what league they compete in. Yes, there are biological differences between men and women that factor into athletics, but these differences shouldn’t influence how we respect athletes.
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Surprisingly Necessary Broadcasting
At first glance, it might seem like a treat that WNBA streams are free and accessible through social media, but when you dig into the impacts that stronger broadcasting would have, it’s actually a bummer. Closing the pay gap, heightening respect to female professional athletes, and establishing women’s leagues that are as popular, profitable and esteemed as men’ all start with broadcasting equality. You hate to admit it, but (in this case, at least) money makes the world go ‘round, and tuning in on FaceBook isn’t going to have the same effect as an ESPN deal. They need an audience to broadcast to, so, if you’re a sports fan, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be a women’s sports fan too.
By Lara Glennon
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Lara Glennon is an aspiring screenwriter looking to share her love and passion for all things film and television. She aims to use her writing to shine a light on artists who are working to make change, both in media and in the world. The Hollywood Insider’s focus on substance over gossip is perfect for Lara, as she wants to highlight the good in the world and those who create it. She enjoys spending her time creating and consuming art, searching for unique voices and ideas in media.