Everyone is shocked by Caitlin Clark’s $76,000 WNBA salary. These numbers show there’s more to the story.

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert poses with draftees before the 2024 WNBA Draft.

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert poses with future draftees before the 2024 WNBA Draft. Sarah Stier/Staff/Getty Images

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With just a few weeks remaining until the WNBA’s 28th season tips off on May 14, there’s plenty to be excited about: Caitlin Clark is preparing to make her WNBA debut with the Indiana Fever, the Las Vegas Aces are eyeing their third consecutive championship, and the league is hoping to break viewership and revenue records.

However, the one thing no one seems to be excited about is the players’ pay. WNBA players notoriously make just a fraction of what their NBA counterparts make, and after the rookie contracts of NCAA stars like Caitlin Clark — who will be paid around $76,000 during her first year — were released on April 16, critics were quick to comment.

“These ladies deserve so much more … Praying for the day,” Steelers quarterback Russell Wilson wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

President Joe Biden also commented on the issue on X, writing, “Women in sports continue to push new boundaries and inspire us all. But right now we’re seeing that even if you’re the best, women are not paid their fair share. It’s time that we give our daughters the same opportunities as our sons and ensure women are paid what they deserve.”

Amid the criticism, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert pushed back on the narrative when speaking at CNBC’s Changemakers Summit on April 18, CNBC reported.

“Caitlin has the ability to make up to a half of a million dollars just in WNBA wages this year, so they’re actually just looking at a base, which is collectively bargained and actually is low […] But she also has millions and millions of dollars in endorsements,” said Engelbert.

WNBA salaries are negotiated in a collective bargaining agreement by the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA), alongside other topics like benefits and revenue sharing. The league last negotiated its CBA in 2020 and will have a chance to opt out of the agreement in 2025.

Clark’s starting salary, thus, is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to understanding the full story behind WNBA pay. Here’s a breakdown of everything you need to know.

Rookies’ salaries are determined by their draft position. Caitlin Clark’s base salary for her first year in the WNBA is around $76,000.

Caitlin Clark celebrates after Iowa's win over LSU in the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament in April 2024.
Caitlin Clark celebrates after Iowa’s win over LSU in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament in April 2024. Andy Lyons/Staff/Getty Images
In April 2024, CBS reported that Clark’s four-year rookie contract is worth a total of $338,056. She’ll be paid $76,535 in 2024, $78,066 in 2025, $85,873 in 2026, and $97,582 in 2027.

Because they were within the top four first-round draft picks, Cameron Brink, Kamilla Cardoso, and Rickea Jackson will have the same rookie salaries, as determined by the WNBA’s CBA.

Meanwhile, picks five through eight from the first round will earn a first-year base salary of $73,439, and the remaining first-round picks will earn a first-year base salary of $70,344.