The Notorious Gender Wage Gap: Why is an NBA Assistant Coach Being Paid Like an Intern?

There have been numerous high profile cases of the sizeable gender wage gap between athletes, coaches, and other sports personnel. One recent instance is of N.B.A. Assistant Kristi Toliver. Toliver boasts a successful career as a W.N.B.A. point guard, playing seven seasons for Los Angeles Sparks before leading them to a 2016 title. Toliver decided not to play overseas during the W.N.B.A. offseason as is commonly done for financial gain. When the opportunity arose to take on the role of assistant coach for the N.B.A. Wizards, it was a natural choice.

Unfortunately, Toliver is being paid a mere $10,000 compared to the standard pay for N.B.A. assistants of $100,000 or more. The Mystics and Wizards fall under the same corporate umbrella, and policies claimed that Toliver’s salary would need to come out of the $50,000 allotted to each W.N.B.A. team to distribute among players during the off-season.

Factors such as Title VII and Title IX have significantly improved girls and women’s access to physical activity and sports as well as access to high-profile leadership roles such as sitting on the International Olympic Committee. However, the opportunities for female athletes to take on coaching possessions are relatively scarce in the male-dominated social world of sport. The financial earning potential for female coaches is relatively low compared to male coaches. It was found that male basketball coaching positions were reserved almost exclusively for men, and coaches of men’s basketball teams make almost twice as much as coaches of women’s basketball teams. Furthermore, the economic rationale of inequitable pay for female coaches has been overturned, with more emphasis placed on the likelihood of discrimination as the main contributing factor. Toliver’s situation is not unique among female coaches, and presents some important sociological implications surrounding the organization of male-dominated sport and the impact of discrimination on coaching salaries.  


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