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The Northern Star

The Northern Star

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Graduation caps being thrown in the air.
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A senior looks back
Lucy Brisman, Managing Editor/Opinion Editor • May 31, 2024

13 years ago, County Road Elementary School gave me an ID that defined me for my entire academic career. The first four numbers were 2024....

Women’s collegiate basketball players are “breaking the backboard” of the sports industry

LSU’s Angel Reese
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LSU’s Angel Reese

The 2024 NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Championship went down on April 7th as a moment in women’s sports history to be remembered. Throughout the season, players like Caitlin Clark of Iowa gained recognition from sports fans world wide. This newfound attention highlighted the impressive athleticism of NCAA women’s basketball athletes. However, the attention did not stop there, the incredible athleticism displayed by Caitlin Clark and other athletes has brought much-needed attention and awareness to women’s sports as a whole, sparking a new wave of the feminist movement in sports.

Caitlin Clark is an athlete to be remembered for generations to come. Throughout her senior year at Iowa University, Clark has broken a number of not just women’s collegiate basketball records, but has shattered records of now famous male NBA players. Clark is ending her senior year as the “active NCAA women’s basketball leader in career points, scoring average, 3-point field goals, 3-pointers per game, career assists, assists per game, field goals made, 3-point attempts, free throws made and free throws attempted,” KCCI News said. These records are incredibly impressive and have showcased that women’s basketball can hold its own in the basketball world, which has previously been dominated by men. Clark acts as a role model for young female athletes all over the world, proving that women can do just about anything, especially in sports.

As expected, Clark went on to be the number one draft pick in the 2024 WNBA draft, being selected by the Indiana Fevers. Her draft has brought attention to the lack of justice in pay equality for women athletes. The WNBA salary is just simply not enough to be a living wage, compared to NBA salaries that are in the millions.

According to NBC News, “The WNBA’s lower revenue is a key reason for the pay disparity between the leagues that has now drawn national headlines, and it is why rookies, including Clark, will earn a base salary of just $76,000 this season,” Wile states.

The hope is that the attention and viewership Clark and other women’s collegiate basketball players have generated in the 2024 season can translate to WNBA viewership, and therefore the wages of players can be inflated.

Critics argue that it is reasonable for women’s basketball players to be paid significantly less than men’s players because there’s less viewership of the WNBA compared to the NBA. However, the issue with women’s basketball players’ wages is not a surface level issue. The problem is not just that women’s wages are lower than men’s, but the fact that many female players do not earn enough money to live comfortably, despite their incredible performances and hard work. Men’s players are drowning in disposable income whereas females are playing and living paycheck to paycheck. The injustice between the wages is a deeper problem than the lack of viewership, it is the lack of care for women’s basketball in the sports industry.

Although a new wave of women empowerment in sports may be viewed as a positive thing by many, players have faced harsh backlash from sports fans, as well as athletes in the WNBA. The newfound attention has not all been positive, being on the forefront of sports, women’s collegiate players have faced ruthless criticism and borderline bullying at the hands of misogynistic sports fans who attempted to diminish the athletes by comparing the players to men.

In an interview, Louisiana State University’s Angel Reese, a very prominent player in the 2023 and 2024 collegiate seasons, highlights in an interview that “I just try to stay strong… I’ve been attacked so many times. Death threats, I’ve been sexualized, I’ve been threatened… I’m still human. All this has happened since I won the national championship & I haven’t been happy since then” Reese said.

The stark difference in criticism that the men’s and women’s players receive is that many of the attacks against women are sexual comments or remarks.

So what does this mean for the future of women’s sports? While the former collegiate players get ready for their WNBA debut, sports fans and professionals are questioning if their “hype” will continue. Stories like Clark’s and Reese’s must continue to be told and support for the athletes must be maintained. Continuous support will validate and assure the place of women’s basketball in history, and serve the WNBA players the wage justice they deserve. The 2024 women’s collegiate basketball season was a season to be remembered, uncovering the many flaws in the sports industries and continuing to push the narrative to support women in sports. The only hope now is that these flaws are not just recognized, but acted on.

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