Want WNBA, women's sports to thrive? Fans must do their part, buying tickets and swag.

It is easy, and often deserved, to criticize the WNBA for the ways it does its players wrong. The slow-walking of expansion. The refusal to increase rosters or add developmental players. The paltry contract structure.

Growing women’s sports is a communal effort, however. Now that the WNBA is beginning to remove the gargantuan stumbling blocks it put in its own way, implementing charter flights and adding a team in Toronto, it’s incumbent upon fans – particularly those who are just discovering the 28-year-old league – to do their part.

Those outraged to learn Caitlin Clark will make less than $77,000 this season, I hear you. But have you bought a jersey? Merchandise is one of the revenue streams that contributes to the WNBA’s bottom line, which helps fund those player salaries.

Those alarmed by the gawkers surrounding players as they made their way through airport baggage claim during the preseason, I get it. Have you subscribed to the WNBA League Pass? Lobbied your local affiliates to carry games? Charter flights aren’t cheap – the WNBA estimates it will cost about $25 million a season for the program – and broadcast revenues are a key in making them possible.

Also, it would have been nice if there’d been similar concern over Brittney Griner being harassed by a right-wingnut provocateur last season, but better later than never.

Those fretting about their favorite college player making a roster, you’re right to worry. Have you bought season tickets? Gone to an exhibition game if you’re in a city hoping to land a team? Supported your local college team? Expansion is a necessity to increase opportunities for players, and robust displays of interest will force W leaders and their NBA overlords to stop dragging their heels. Communities with established histories of fandom are likely to be at the front of the line when it happens, too.

“Welcome to the table. We’ve been fighting this fight for a while,” Breanna Stewart said at last month’s U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee media summit when asked about the furor over Clark’s salary.

“I would say that we are obviously aware of the situations and we're only going to continue to make them better,” Stewart continued. “This league is 28 years young and nothing is gonna happen overnight. So the biggest way that you can help us have this change and make these differences is buying tickets, buying jerseys, buying the league pass, coming to games, watching on TV. Because that's what matters.”

Los Angeles Sparks coach Curt Miller, who has coached in the W for a decade, agreed. Anger is easy. Investment is imperative.

“The fan base coming to games. Investing in merchandise. Wearing that merchandise,” Miller said Thursday. “Then corporate sponsors jumping on board. They see the viewership. They see the bang for their buck right now in women’s sports in general, but especially the WNBA.

“The more and more that happens, the more and more these commercials are going to happen with the faces of our league, and we’ll just continue to have incredible opportunities, individually for our players and our franchises.”

Those who wanted to dismiss women’s sports used to do so by saying they didn’t generate money. Which, even when true, ignored the historical hurdles women’s sports have had to overcome. They started at least a half-century behind, and didn’t get the broad support – financially and psychologically – that was a given for men’s teams.

Thankfully, that is changing. Sponsors are rushing to align themselves with both women’s leagues and female athletes. Broadcasters are scrambling to get a piece of the WNBA, the NWSL and NCAA sports. In the last two weeks alone, Dallas officials approved public funding to lure the WNBA’s Wings to a city arena and bring a team in the new United Soccer League’s Super League to the Cotton Bowl.

Increasing revenues will lead to the higher salaries and adequate facilities these women deserve and that fans, new and old, have clamored for. Maybe not as fast as they should, but within the next two or three years.

“You feel like there’s this momentum,” Diana Taurasi said Thursday. “We’ve had it in the past and I think it’s slipped through the cracks. But it just seems a little bit different this year. … I think society’s tapped into a part of life that they want to see, they want to enjoy.”

Outrage helped push the leagues, and society, to do better by women athletes. But anger eventually burns out. Investment – by leagues, by teams, by sponsors and, yes, by the fans themselves – ensures women's sports have the foundation they need not just to survive but to thrive.

Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on social media @nrarmour.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: WNBA investing in charter flights, expansion. Now fans must step up.