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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Biden weighs in on Caitlin Clark salary debate after WNBA draft

Caitlin Clark of Iowa during a basketball game against Wisconsin in Iowa City, Iowa, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024. Clark was selected first in the WNBA draft earlier this week, but her salary will be far less than those of her male counterparts. (Hilary Swift/The New York Times)

By The Star Staff

President Joe Biden jumped into a debate about gender and sports this week, calling for pay equity for women athletes after Caitlin Clark, the University of Iowa basketball standout, was selected first in the WNBA draft.

Clark’s salary will be far less than those of her male counterparts. Biden, writing on X on Tuesday, said that for all their accomplishments in sports, women athletes were undervalued.

“Right now we’re seeing that even if you’re the best, women are not paid their fair share,” he said. “It’s time that we give our daughters the same opportunities as our sons and ensure women are paid what they deserve.”

Biden was nodding to a banner moment for women’s basketball, one powered by stars like Clark, who was chosen by the WNBA’s Indiana Fever, and Paige Bueckers of the University of Connecticut and Angel Reese of LSU.

But Clark’s salary will amount to $338,056 over the next four years, under the WNBA’s collective bargaining agreement. The total is a fraction of the contract of Victor Wembanyama, whom the San Antonio Spurs chose with the top pick in last year’s NBA draft. His contract was for $55 million, according to Spotrac, a website that tracks salaries in sports.

The disparity has drawn intense scrutiny during a pivotal moment for sports, particularly in college athletics. Students have gained the opportunity to monetize their athletic success through name, image and likeness, or NIL deals, that can earn top stars like Clark millions of dollars. But the overall compensation of women in sports is far outpaced by how much money male athletes make.

The women’s national championship game, in which Clark’s Iowa lost to South Carolina, earned higher ratings for the first time than the men’s championship contest between UConn and Purdue.

The president’s comments touched off a flurry of responses online, some echoing Biden’s perspective about inequity and others taking a more cynical point of view. Critics used the occasion to criticize Democrats over the participation of transgender athletes in women’s sports.

Martina Navratilova, the women’s tennis legend, praised Biden.

“Exactly,” she responded on X, and she called for protecting a policy that ensures equal access for women in education. “Which means do not mess with Title IX, thank you Mr President!”

Last year, Jill Biden, the first lady, created a stir after LSU defeated the University of Iowa, another squad led by Clark, when she suggested that both teams should be invited to the White House, which would have broken from the tradition of the president hosting just the title winners.

Reese, the LSU star who was also a top selection in the WNBA draft, panned the idea at the time.

“If we were to lose, we would not be getting invited to the White House,” she said on a podcast.

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