Skylar Diggins Is Done With Your Sexism


Skylar Diggins is over it. She doesn’t have time for your WNBA jokes, your sexism and your racism, and especially for the league’s backwards thinking surrounding female athletes. She is so over it that she recently spoke out about all the shit she doesn’t have time to put up with as a mother, Roc nation athlete and mogul. That includes pay equality, travel discrepancies, and the way women are treated in America—professional athletes and average Janes alike.

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So what does Diggins have time for? Speaking openly, frankly, and boldly about the inequality that exists in the WBNA. She’s quick to rebound from any of the usual arguments like “the WNBA doesn’t have the audience” or “men in the NBA deserved to be treated differently because of the popularity” with hard cold facts (and numbers and reports). For starters, Diggins points to ESPN’s failure to air WNBA games. “People talk about us not selling enough seats or generating enough money but it’s a circular industry problem because we don’t get any air time,” says Diggins. “We’re not provided with the same platform to be as successful.”

Even apart from the limited airtime, Diggins cites statistics that prove viewership for the WNBA is in fact growing. She also has stats that prove pay inequality between male and female professional basketball players is very real: WNBA player salaries max out at the beginning of six figures (that’s 20 percent of an NBA player’s minimum salary), and WNBA players also don’t see profits from jersey sales. Diggins has the second-most-popular jersey across the WNBA but hasn’t received a penny of that revenue.

Diggins isn’t fighting this inequality alone. The WNBA star is uniting her fellow female athletes through social media and meetings after games to change the conversation and prepare for an upcoming WNBA negotiation. The star athlete chatted with about what exactly she wants: a salary equivalent to her work (which includes jersey sales), travel conditions that support her body, and a perfect three-point shot.

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Skylar Diggans-Smith


What motivates you to speak out and make these changes in the WNBA?

I think there’s really some responsibility of current players to do their part just like women in the past have done for us. We stand on the shoulders of a lot of women who’ve done a lot of the legwork and it’s time for us to do our part with social media and other ways to connect with people and to get the messaging out there. It’s the perfect time to speak out on it and just try to make the league better.

What’s the sentiment in the league right now? Do you think it’s heightened because of the current political climate?

I think you see it every day, obviously as the times go on, huge deals and TV deals, that’s what I know as success and yet it only goes to men. We just haven’t really experienced in our sport .and It’s not our intention to criticize certain NBA players or certain salaries that come out of the NBA, it’s just fair to compare salaries dollar for dollar.

And just speaking to, kids asking me, “What’s the WNBA like?” Or “I wanna play in the WNBA!” I just feel like a little sense of responsibility to try to make it better and speak out on those discrepancies.

The issue of female athletes being treated in an inferior way compared to male athletes is nothing new. From Serena Williams to Billie Jean King, these issues continue to persist; how do you feel it’s best to contribute to the fight?

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The women you named are pioneers, along with Venus Williams who has done a lot in tennis and gender disparity as well. We deserve more and let’s figure out a way to make that happen, but I do think there is a population of people who don’t experience inequality, don’t get it.

There’s gonna be some pushback. When people don’t agree with you or they don’t understand, or they don’t live the same life experiences as you, they may disagree. I think the most important thing is starting the conversation and having these conversations. I think that’s how you see change.

What’s been the pushback you’ve received so far?

Typical trolls. I’m literally criticized every day about different things like my family and my game so I’m used to criticism. I think it just really comes from people that don’t live my life experience. They’re not a women fighting for equality and the trolls don’t experience gender inequality or racial inequality. You don’t know my life experience so you may not understand but it’s nothing that is going to stop me from speaking up.

What’s been the positive feedback after voicing your issues with the WNBA?

I’ve gotten way more support than hate. I’m not the only one trying to figure this thing out. I’m not the first one. I’m just an additional voice. We have a collective bargaining agreement coming up where all 144 women of the WNBA have the power and a seat at the table to drive that change we want to see for our league in the future.

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People talk about us not selling enough seats or generating enough money but it’s a circular industry problem because we don’t get any air time. We’re not provided with the same platform to be as successful. That’s what we’re fighting for, to have the platform, to have the resources, and to be as successful.

How are you working with fellow WNBA members to create change?

It’s social media, meetings, text messages, and DMs because of a lot of female athletes actually play overseas in the offseason. We’re on different time zones, so we really try to get a lot done during the season. Going through the season you see first hand what you feel like we need to improve on, we need to get better on, so a lot of these conversations happen during the season.

Do you have any advice for other women going through similar situations outside the sports arena?

I would encourage women to speak up on these issues, use your voice, be sure you’re not the only one. Continue to fight and use your voice, that would be my biggest advice, just use your voice.


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