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WNBA star Skylar Diggins-Smith compares her pay to Harrison Barnes

Harrison Barnes

The disparity of pay between the NBA and its sister, the WNBA, has gone to astronomical levels.

Only a short oversight into the vast gap in compensation between NBA athletes and WNBA players will give the impression that these two eerily similar homegrown basketball leagues are completely different when it comes down to money.

Dallas Wings star forward Skylar Diggins-Smith wasn’t shy about speaking up about the massive difference in pay, comparing her salary to Harrison Barnes, the highest-paid player on the Dallas Mavericks.

“I’m the highest-paid player on the Dallas Wings, and my salary is in the low six figures,” Diggins-Smith, who made $115,000 this past season, told Wealthsimple.com. “Harrison Barnes, the highest-paid player on the Dallas Mavericks, made $24 million last season. He’s definitely younger than me. Do you know his stats? Was he an All-Star? I mean, it doesn’t matter. But last year, I was First-Team All-WNBA, which only goes to five players. I was also a WNBA All-Star for the third time.”

Barnes has yet to get the All-Star nod in his six years in the NBA, let alone reach an All-NBA team. Matter of fact, besides his championship with the Golden State Warriors, Barnes’ only NBA accolade is getting First-Team All-Rookie considerations in 2013.

His contract was part of the massive overspending in 2016, when teams doled out beefy long-term contracts to plenty of average players. All of this, while Diggins-Smith makes no more than a successful lawyer or real estate agent in some parts of the country, despite possessing elite-level talent in her own profession.

While the revenue is surely much larger in the NBA due to its popularity, the issue doesn’t stop there, as players aren’t getting remotely half of what is being generated by the WNBA.

“Players in the NBA get about 50 percent of the revenue. For women, the percentage is in the twenties,” Diggins-Smith added. “So before we even talk about base salary or anything like that, we don’t even get paid the same percentage of the revenue that we bring in, which is kind of unbelievable.”

“People try to hijack this issue and say that women’s basketball may not be as interesting a game, because they disparage women in sports, period. But we don’t even make the same percentage of revenue! And jersey sales, we don’t get any of it. The men do. And I have had a top-five jersey for three or four years in the WNBA.”

To put it in simpler terms, Diggins-Smith is seeing zero revenue from jersey sales, despite being the Kevin Durant of her league (finished in the top five on jersey sales in the last four years).

This lack of equality has made stars like Diana Taurasi, the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer, take an entire season off in 2015, while still playing her regular season in Russia (which pays much better). More recently, Diggins-Smith’s teammate, Liz Cambage, could consider retiring from the WNBA game despite being one of the front-runners for the MVP award.

After breaking into the WNBA in 2011, Cambage played five seasons overseas between China and her native Australia — a sign that the WNBA’s economy and financial philosophy is playing part in why its players are choosing to part ways.