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VICTOR JOECKS: WNBA players don’t deserve NBA pay

Sen. Jacky Rosen is demanding a congressional hearing on why WNBA players don’t earn as much as players in the NBA. No, that’s not a joke.

“We write to respectfully request that you hold a hearing in the Commerce Committee on the significant issue of pay disparity between men and women athletes in the United States,” Rosen and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., penned in a letter to committee chairman Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.

“Following the (U.S. women’s national soccer team’s) latest World Cup victory, a hearing would afford a timely opportunity for the committee to recognize the importance of protecting and empowering athletes — while also examining the troubling pay disparities that have been highlighted in recent weeks,” they wrote.

As examples of the “gender pay gap” in sports, they note that the maximum salary in the WNBA is $115,500, while the minimum NBA salary is $582,180. The U.S. women’s hockey team received only $1,000 a month around the Olympics, before striking a new deal in 2017. The prize money from LPGA events is around one-fifth of what men will earn on the PGA.

You don’t need a congressional hearing to figure this out. Just to go a Las Vegas Aces game. Don’t worry, there are plenty of tickets available.

Attendance at the Aces’ last home game was 3,516. Their average attendance, 4,400 a game, is a little better. Capacity in the Mandalay Events Center, however, is 12,000.

For those who don’t know, the Aces are a WNBA franchise, which moved to Las Vegas two years ago. The team is very good and currently has the best record in the league. Not a great sign if the best team in the league only fills up one-third of its arena.

It’s not that Las Vegas isn’t interested in basketball. The just-concluded NBA Summer League, which features up-and-coming NBA players, drew 134,188 fans over 11 days. The Aces are on pace to draw 75,000 fans over the course of its entire season.

The average NBA team draws 18,000 fans per game. The NBA also has more than twice as many regular season games as the WNBA’s.

Then there are the respective leagues’ TV deals. The WNBA’s TV deal with ESPN is worth $12 million annually. The NBA’s TV deal produces $2.6 billion a year for the league.

Is it any wonder that NBA players make more?

This isn’t evidence of discrimination or bias, as Rosen and Klobuchar imply. It’s supply and demand. There are similar dynamics in hockey and golf. There’s a small professional hockey league for women, but it’s just five teams almost no one has heard of. Five million people tuned in to watch the PGA’s U.S. Open. The U.S. Women’s Open drew 728,000 viewers.

The patriarchy isn’t preventing people from attending or watching women’s sporting events. People have the freedom to make their own entertainment choices. They currently aren’t very interested. That could always change.

If you want to increase pay for female athletes, don’t hold a hearing. Encourage more people to attend or watch their games.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen to him discuss his columns each Monday at 10 a.m. with Kevin Wall on 790 Talk Now. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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