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Biden Weighs in on Caitlin Clark Salary Debate After W.N.B.A. Draft

President Biden jumped into a debate about gender and sports this week, calling for pay equity for women athletes after Caitlin Clark, the University of Iowa basketball standout, was selected first in the W.N.B.A. Draft.

Ms. Clark’s salary will be far less than that of her male counterparts. Mr. Biden, writing on X on Tuesday, said that for all their accomplishments in sports, women athletes were undervalued.

“Right now we’re seeing that even if you’re the best, women are not paid their fair share,” he said. “It’s time that we give our daughters the same opportunities as our sons and ensure women are paid what they deserve.”

Mr. Biden was nodding to a banner moment for women’s basketball, one powered by stars like Ms. Clark, who was chosen by the W.N.B.A.’s Indiana Fever, and Paige Bueckers of the University of Connecticut and Angel Reese of L.S.U.

But Ms. Clark’s salary will amount to $338,056 over the next four years, under the W.N.B.A.’s collective bargaining agreement. The total is a fraction of the contract of Victor Wembanyama, whom the San Antonio Spurs chose with the top pick in last year’s N.B.A. Draft. His contract was for $55 million, according to Spotrac, a website that tracks salaries in sports.

The disparity has drawn intense scrutiny during a pivotal moment for sports, particularly in college athletics. Students have gained the opportunity to monetize their athletic success through name, image and likeness, or N.I.L. deals, that can earn top stars like Ms. Clark millions of dollars. But the overall compensation of women in sports is far outpaced by how much money male athletes make.

The women’s national championship game, in which Ms. Clark’s Iowa lost to South Carolina, earned higher ratings for the first time than the men’s championship contest between UConn and Purdue.

The president’s comments touched off a flurry of responses online, some echoing Mr. Biden’s perspective about inequity and others taking a more cynical point of view. Critics used the occasion to criticize Democrats over the participation of transgender athletes in women’s sports.

Martina Navratilova, the women’s tennis legend, praised Mr. Biden.

“Exactly,” she responded on X, and she called for protecting a policy that ensures equal access for women in education. “Which means do not mess with Title IX, thank you Mr President!”

Last year, Jill Biden, the first lady, created a stir after L.S.U. defeated the University of Iowa, another squad led by Ms. Clark, when she suggested that both teams should be invited to the White House, which would have broken from the tradition of the president hosting just the title winners.

Ms. Reese, the L.S.U. star who was also a top selection in the W.N.B.A. Draft, panned the idea at the time.

“If we were to lose, we would not be getting invited to the White House,” she said on a podcast.

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