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It's not gender bias, it's economics. And a moonshot moment for women's sports.

From the WNBA to the NWSL, truly great women’s players are lifting women’s leagues.

All this outrage over WNBA pay is uninformed, misguided and defeatist.

Yes, Caitlin Clark’s WNBA salary seems unjust when compared to her NBA peers’ salaries. But as Kavitha Davidson wrote this week, the details matter. Because the WNBA cannot and should not be compared to the NBA, which is expected to generate $13 billion this year. The WNBA will not match that. Nor can it match the NBA’s massive national media deals, which are expected to pay the league $2.8 billion this year alone. The WNBA this year is getting about $65 million total for its rights.?

No, this is not a story of gender bias. This is a story of economics. But it’s also a positive story.

This is not a story of gender bias. This is a story of economics. But it’s also a positive story.

Compared to men’s basketball, the women’s league is in its infancy.?The NBA has had a 50-year head start, and those early years were not days of glory in terms of pay for the players, let alone audience interest in the league. If a comparison must be made, look at the NBA when it was 27 years young, like the WNBA is today. Back in the 1970s, the league had no mojo and an uncertain future.

Instead of criticizing the WNBA for manufacturing revenue out of thin air, we should be praising a league that has, against the odds, survived and is now starting to thrive. The WNBA is the only U.S. women’s league that has lasted 28 years.?The National Women’s Soccer League is one of a handful of professional women’s soccer leagues to launch in the U.S. since the “W” has existed. The WUSA and the WPS, founded in 2000 and 2008 respectively, eventually dissolved because of a lack of resources, including pay for their players.?

Like their hardcourt counterparts, women’s soccer players have fought long and hard for recognition and pay equity. In November, the NWSL announced a massive media partnership deal worth $240 million over four years. That is around 40 times the league’s previous deal.

In March, the NWSL named Amazon its exclusive retail sponsor, and Prime will stream over two dozen matches in 2024. Meanwhile, the worth of the average NWSL team has surged exponentially, with celebrity-backed Angel City FC becoming one of the more valuable women’s sports teams in the entire world.

Base salaries in the NWSL are low, but they are increasing. And so are salary caps. The tide is rising, helped along by the top-level play of American athletes and the high-profile global dominance of the women's national soccer team.

"The NWSL has benefited by many of its players being part of the championship U.S. national team," Hilary Rosen, an investor in the NWSL’s Chicago Red Stars, told me. "Their success not only generated calls for pay equity, but their popularity has increased investment from new team owners across the league who are more focused on the growth of the game than immediate profits."

I understand?frustrated fans who see their heroes on the court (or pitch) seemingly getting taken advantage of when it comes to pay. They love these women and want to see them get compensated for their talents.?But I’m baffled by industry pros’ echoing these same sentiments.?It’s not bad news. We are in a rare and welcome good news cycle.

What we have here is an awesome moment in women’s sports.?Truly great women’s players are lifting women’s leagues, creating a universe of new fans and leveling up business for all in the years to come.

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