- The WNBPA has reached a multi-year partnership with a new company — Parity — to get players paid.
- Parity connects women’s athletes with corporate sponsors to work towards pay equity in sports.
- At present, just 0.4% of total sports sponsorship is devoted to women’s sports and athletes.
For anyone who’s paid attention, the pervasive gender inequity plaguing the sports world is nothing new.
From the US Women’s National Team’s fight for equal pay to calls for fair exposure and resources across various levels of women’s sports, the uphill battle for a more egalitarian athletics landscape has been front and center in recent years.
“Pay equity has always been a point of emphasis for us when we’re advocating, not just for ourselves, but for women in the workplace,” WNBA Players Association President and Los Angeles Sparks superstar Nneka Ogwumike told Insider. “… Talking about supporting women is easy, but doing it takes another level of perspective and awareness to really step into that.”
An often-overlooked component of that discussion — and how to close the wage gap in sports more generally — is investment and sponsorship opportunities. The numbers are startling; just 0.4% of total sports sponsorship is devoted to women’s sports and athletes. For every dollar a company invests in endorsement deals for men’s sports, less than half a penny goes to the women’s game.
Those statistics are unacceptable for the WNBA and its players who have long led the charge on social advocacy in sports. So Ogwumike spearheaded a WNBPA effort to precipitate change and get all the women nonbinary WNBA players paid their due.
The players’ union has struck up a multi-year partnership with Parity, an emerging online platform that works to connect women’s athletes with corporate sponsors. Despite launching just a year ago, Parity is already working with more than 600 athletes from 40 different sports to deliver individualized sponsorship opportunities that cater to their personal interests and passions.
In that same short span, the company has attracted major brands — Microsoft, Morgan Stanley,
, and Thule, to name a few — as well as countless smaller, more local companies eager to invest in women’s sports.
“We have some much more large level, internationally known, huge corporate clients,” Alana Casner, Parity’s Vice President of Content & Strategy, told Insider. “And then we also have some small niche clients and a lot of up-and-coming startups that are like, ‘Wait, this is absolutely a space we want to play in and thank God that you guys do this and we can make this happen.'”
“So it’s a little bit of everything,” she added, “And I really like that because it creates a variation in the different types of opportunities that athletes will get.”
That component of the partnership was paramount for Ogwumike and the WNBPA, who have placed particular emphasis on helping to score deals for all the players of the WNBA, including those who don’t garner the levels of exposure that some of the league’s foremost superstars enjoy.
“A lot of our discussions as [WNBPA] executive committee members were about making sure that no players left behind,” Ogwumike said. “So for a lot of players that may not necessarily be first in line to get the big deal or the ones who are considered more mid-level market players, this is a perfect way to ensure that everyone is valued. That’s certainly something that I was happy about when I was in discussions with Parity.”
When Ogwumike first assumed the WNBPA presidency in 2016, she admittedly “didn’t know what it was going to be like” but set out “to make sure that I left the league better than when I came in.”
It’s safe to say she’s achieved that goal — and then some. The 2016 WNBA champion and MVP led the union’s effort to score a landmark collective bargaining agreement with the WNBA in 2020 — which increased player salaries, ensured paid maternity leave, and improved marketing and travel for the league.
She navigated the uncharted terrain of 2020, advocating for herself and her colleagues through a pandemic and pervasive social unrest. And she steered the ship as the players challenged one of its team owners head-on, helping to flip the US Senate and alter the course of American politics in the process.
Brokering the WNBPA’s new deal with Parity — which has the potential to change lives across the league while addressing the wider pay gap in women’s sports — is just the latest example of Ogwumike’s positive influence on the WNBA and its players.
“It feels amazing,” Ogwumike said. “It hasn’t necessarily been easy; I say that, meaning that I’ve learned a lot along the way, and I still am learning a lot along the way. But I’m just grateful to be able to work with such amazing women of this league.”
“That’s really what makes this job so fulfilling.”