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Daily Skimm Weekend: Brittney Griner, Abortion Access, and a Beach Day at Home

WNBA star Brittney Griner playing basketball
Design: theSkimm | Photo: Getty Images
Jul 9, 2022

Away Game

All eyes on Brittney Griner: After nearly five months of being “wrongfully detained,” the world’s attention is on the American WNBA All-Star as she stands trial in Russia. Let’s not forget why the league’s best offensive player was overseas in the first place.

The Story

In the US, the average NBA base salary is reportedly $5.4 million, nearly 45 times as much as the WNBA's average of $120,600. Result: About half of the players spend their off seasons abroad, to earn extra money. In February, as she has done for several years, Griner was traveling to Russia to play with the team UMMC Ekaterinburg, when she was arrested and detained — a week before the country invaded Ukraine. Many have speculated that if it’d been Steph Curry or LeBron James instead, American outrage would be off the charts. But that response was muted for Griner.

Why's that?

American female athletes don’t have the same clout — or media coverage — as male athletes. Reminder: The door for women in sports wasn’t really opened until Title IX in 1972. (And there’s still a long way to go.) Not to mention, the WNBA didn’t even exist until 1997. Today, the league nets a fraction of the NBA's average TV viewers and in-person crowds, according to ESPN. The women’s teams play 46 fewer in-season games than the men — meaning, less opportunity to gain fans. Or the kind of fame that results in lucrative sponsorships. All of which ends up affecting how much women’s basketball players, even All-Stars like Griner, can be paid

Explain.

The WNBA is working with much less revenue. The league doesn’t release exact numbers, but one sports economist estimates it’s around $70 million. (For perspective, that wouldn’t even cover the combined NBA salaries of LeBron James and Steph Curry.) Still, the WNBA is trying to make strides: In 2020, it reached a deal with the players’ union for pay increases and new benefits, like paid maternity leave. And this year, it raised $75 million in hopes of shifting its business model — and turning its athletes into “household names.” But that’s not likely to change the fact (at least, for now) that many players will still have to rely on working in foreign leagues to supplement their income.

theSkimm

Griner’s situation is shining a light on how unequally American female athletes are regarded — and paid. Everyone could be doing more: The WNBA. The corporate sponsors. And the public. If you’re outraged, go to a game. Or watch one on TV, as soon as tomorrow, when the league hosts its 2022 All-Star Game — which Griner would surely be playing in, if she were home.

PS: We've got more on Brittney Griner — from why she was arrested to the latest with her trial — here.

Eyes On: Abortion Access

ICYMI, President Joe Biden took some steps yesterday to protect abortion access. He blasted the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and called on voters and on Congress to do more, too. Then he signed an executive order that:

  • Directs HHS to find ways to safeguard access to abortion medicine and emergency contraception nationwide.

  • Tasks the same agency to educate people on potentially tricky situations with authorities — since doctors and patients in some states are afraid of being sued or charged with crimes.

  • Convenes volunteer lawyers to provide free legal representation and help navigate new restrictions.

  • Asks the FTC to find ways to protect the privacy of people searching for reproductive care info online.

TBD on how any of that plays out in practice. Either way, some are saying it falls short of what they had hoped for (think: setting up clinics on federal land). But Biden said lasting change would have to come from Congress. And voters.

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Downtime

Downtime doesn’t have to mean doing nothing. Here’s one idea for making the most of your weekend.

Nothing screams summer more than lazy days at the shore. But most people can’t make it to the beach every weekend. So here are a few ways to recreate that feeling at home. 

First things first: Find the perfect sunny spot, whether that’s in your backyard, at your local park, or on your rooftop. Bonus points if there’s water nearby — and don’t forget to apply sunscreen. Then, dress up in your easiest, breeziest beach-ready look (think: a high-waisted swimsuitsome chic sunnies, and a good sun hat). And pack everything you need for a day of fun in the sun, like a blanket, an outdoor speaker, and — of course — a picnic with your go-to snacks. Don’t forget to bring entertainment, like an outdoor game (tip: pickleball is popular for a reason) or a bingeable beach read. Because, keeping up with summer rituals can tide you over ‘til the next time your toes hit the sand.

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