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Sports, gender, and generosity: Female ballers make 613 times less than male players, give way more away

Ed. note: This is a guest post.

Carmelo Anthony made a cozy $22,458,401 in NBA salary last season (that doesn’t include his endorsements and other sources of income, but a sister only has so much time to read people’s W2s). The New York Knicks forward also gave away more of his money than any other NBA player. Notably, Eli Manning, Ndamukong Suh and Lance Berkman gave away more. Where are you non-salary capped baseball players? But that’s another story for another day.

Let’s talk about Melo — after we talk about this number: 613.

The average NBA player makes 613 times what the average WNBA player makes in a year. Obviously the value we as a society put on female athletes is low, but 613 times lower than male athletes is just, well, a whole lot. We’ve managed to close the racial gap in athlete compensation, but not the gender gap. The WNBA is actually the gold standard for diversity and equity in hiring — the league has 29 percent black professional staff. Yeah, that is high for the world of professional sports, an industry that is pretty well known for exploiting the labor of black and brown athletes for the gain of wealthy white team owners. (If you haven’t yet, I’d read Blake Griffin’s piece about being carted around by Donald Sterling like he was property of the former team owner. The slavery analogy makes itself so I’ll just keep it moving.)

Let’s get back to Melo. In 2012 he made $18,518,574 in salary (which doesn’t include endorsements) and he gave away $837,200. Melo gave away a little more than 4.5 percent of his salary. That’s something, but WNBA center Tina Charles gave away half of her $100,000 salary to charity.

That difference is not entirely surprising. People who earn less money tend to give more away. According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy: “Households that earn $50,000 to $75,000 give an average of 7.6 percent of their discretionary income to charity, compared with an average of 4.2 percent for people who make $100,000 or more.” So Melo fits the pattern pretty well. Middle-class folks beat Melo, if not on the court or in actual dollars, in how much they’ll sacrifice for others.


If Melo matched typical giving patterns for middle-class folks he’d have given away just over $1.4 million dollars (and again, we’re not counting any of his other sources of income). If every NBA player, coach, and owner gave 7.6 percent of their income, we might see some intense social transformation (especially in communities that players come from). As a useful if imperfect proxy, the NBA’s total revenue last year was $4.56 billion dollars. What’s 7.6 percent of that? A whopping $347,000,000. That’s enough to pay for universal preschool for every child in California and have enough left over to throw a state-wide dance party. Daaamn.

We should definitely have a conversation in general about athlete compensation. Because, like it’s cool that you can ball, but you shouldn’t be making more than the GDP of some countries. Remember though — no matter how much an athlete gets paid, there is someone with even more money paying them. We should also talk about fairly compensating WNBA players. Maybe they can do generosity lessons for the NBA.

Adrienne is a sports writer, educational justice activist. She does not now nor ever have time for Kobe Bryant. Read more of her sports writing here

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