Whoopi Goldberg Credit: The View

Whoopi Goldberg is ready for networks like ESPN to stop eating at the trough of women’s sports without bringing real money to the table. In a monologue on Thursday’s episode of The View, Goldberg criticized ESPN for lowballing the WNBA in its media rights deal and reaping the benefits of recent increased viewership now rather than coming to the table with a substantive increase ahead of next year’s negotiations.

After Goldberg explained that the entire salary books for Clark’s new team, the Indiana Fever, are lower than the annual salary of most NBA rookies, she pointed her finger at ESPN as a culprit in the devaluation of women athletes.

“The women have the headlines, they have the fans, they have the viewers; when the hell are they going to get paid?” Goldberg asked. “Because ESPN, who we work with as part of the Disney thing, they came in and swooped in.”

ABC News, a sister company of ESPN under the Walt Disney Co. umbrella, produces The View.

“I know there’s a re-up coming, but they should have kissed this deal by taking care of all of the WNBA and giving them enough money for a bump up,” Goldberg said. “They should have sweetened that deal.”

Cohost Sunny Hostin, an attorney and member of the WNBA board of advocates, highlighted that these changes largely result from collective bargaining. The players’ union increased player salaries by more than 50 percent with its 2020 CBA.

Then, journalist Sara Haines pointed out the biggest issue: While NBA players have negotiated earning more than half of league revenues, WNBA players receive just 10 percent.

Goldberg got the last word.

“I put a lot of this on ESPN,” Goldberg said. “It’s a good deal for you at the moment, you know you’re going to have to come in and (bargain) late next year … but my feeling was listen, when you took them on, you should have said … ‘We’re going to give you a jump.'”

While Goldberg is light on the specifics compared with her cohosts, her point would land well with women’s basketball leaders. Nobody would expect ESPN to increase its payout for its current broadcast package willingly, but nothing is stopping the worldwide leader from adding additional games to its slate — as it did in 2020.

Many around the WNBA agree ESPN has held the league back from expanding its playoffs. The network wants exclusive ownership of playoff broadcast rights but is inflexible with broadcast windows and network prioritization. That puts the WNBA in a position to have a three-game first and second round followed by five-game semifinals and finals.

This week’s WNBA Draft on ESPN averaged nearly 2.5 million viewers, the second-most watched WNBA television broadcast ever. The season starts next month, and ESPN is sure to expect monster ratings, especially when Clark plays.

Most sports leagues are funded largely by broadcast rights revenues, so Goldberg’s point is well taken that undervalued media rights lead directly to shrunken player salaries.

The next WNBA broadcast rights deal will start in 2026, and negotiations are already underway.

[The View on YouTube]

About Brendon Kleen

Brendon is a Media Commentary staff writer at Awful Announcing. He has also covered basketball and sports business at Front Office Sports, SB Nation, Uproxx and more.