Skylar Diggins-Smith met with Mark Cuban to discuss the NBA, WNBA pay gap

Skylar Diggins-Smith met with Mavericks owner Mark Cuban shortly after she called out the massive pay gap between the NBA and the WNBA. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Skylar Diggins-Smith met with Mavericks owner Mark Cuban shortly after she called out the massive pay gap between the NBA and the WNBA. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Dallas Wings point guard Skylar Diggins-Smith made headlines in August when she called out the pay gap between the WNBA and the NBA, one of many WNBA players to do so in recent months.

She compared herself to Dallas Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes — the highest paid player on the Mavericks, who made $24 million last season — in an essay for Wealthsimple. She wasn’t saying she should also make $24 million a year, but simply showing that WNBA players don’t receive the same percentage of revenue as their NBA counterparts.

“I’m the highest paid player on the Dallas Wings, and my salary is in the low six figures,” Diggins wrote in Wealthsimple. “[Harrison Barnes is] 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.”

She also called out Mavericks owner Mark Cuban for not having been to a Wings game.

“We’ve had Cowboys and Mavericks show up at the game and support us,” Diggins-Smith wrote in Wealthsimple. “I haven’t seen Mark Cuban at a game. And I’m sure I wouldn’t miss him.”

Shortly after Diggins-Smith’s comments, Cuban invited her to come into the Mavericks office to talk with him about it, according to the Dallas Morning News.

The Cuban, Diggins-Smith meeting

Cuban and Diggins-Smith didn’t publicize the 90-minute meeting, though Cuban mentioned it to the Dallas Morning-News ahead of the Mavericks’ home opener on Saturday.

He was asked whether he has any advice for the WNBA — which recently saw its president, Lisa Borders, step down to become the first CEO of Time’s Up — moving forward.

“I met with Skylar Diggins and this is exactly what I told her,” Cuban told the Dallas Morning News, “I said, ‘You’ve got to go out there and create new properties. You’re not going to all of a sudden double WNBA interest so that you can get a huge TV contract to save the day. But what you can do, because the WNBA is so much bigger, dramatically bigger, outside the U.S. than it is in the U.S., there’s players that won’t play here because they make more money overseas.

“The opportunity is the same one as with the men’s game, and that is to create your own World Cup and back out of the FIBA one and make that a source of revenue so the [women’s] players can earn more money.”

He also said he approved of Diggins-Smith’s approach, saying on Twitter that “sometimes you have to get loud to go forward.”

While his advice sounds like something you’d hear on an episode of “Shark Tank,” it was sound from a business perspective. He also explained why he believes the pay gap between the two leagues exists, and said he felt that Diggins-Smith — who averaged 17.9 points, 6.2 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game last year for the Wings, her sixth in the league — understood his point and left the meeting pleased.

“The difference is the total amount of revenue. It’s not a gender issue. It’s a revenue issue,” Cuban told the Dallas Morning News. “If it so happened that the women had greater revenue than the men, the women would make more money.

“The challenge is when they talk about the percentages it kind of avoids the business 101 topic, which is there’s a certain hurdle of fixed cost that you have to overcome. … If your business makes X-amount in sales but your costs are up here, you’re going to have to pay lower commissions. It’s just like we paid a lower percentage to the men until the revenues went up. And when our revenues went up we were able to pay a higher percentage.

“If you can get your top line to grow significantly then there’s more of that to share because you’re covering fixed costs of teams in the league. That’s the difference and that’s the conversation I had with Skylar. She understood it and I’m sure they all understand it.”

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