wnba

Opinion: Martin prime example why Aces’ LVCVA deal is brilliant

It was brilliant to see the LVCVA pledge $100,000 to every player on the Aces in a sponsorship deal to augment the players' salaries.

LAS VEGAS — I hope WNBA No. 1 overall draft pick Caitlin Clark makes millions of dollars.

I also hope her former teammate at Iowa, No. 18 overall draft pick Kate Martin, makes her fair share.

Considering Clark has reportedly already inked multi-million dollar sponsorship deals, Martin will be lucky to clear $50,000 after taxes for her rookie season with the Aces.

For the amount of hype — and revenue — all of the players are bringing to the WNBA this season, these women deserve to be paid properly.

From the rookies to the All-Stars, they all deserve much more than those proverbial flowers, the modern-day term for compliments and accolades. They’re nice but it’s the paper they need to start seeing a lot more of this season.

If that means finding sponsorship money to make up for what teams cannot pay because of a very low salary cap, then so be it.

Smart move for Aces

It was brilliant to see the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority orchestrate the pledging of $100,000 to every player on the Aces in a sponsorship deal.

“We have 100 influencers that we pay to represent Las Vegas,” LVCVA President and CEO Steve Hill said Saturday. “This isn’t any different than that. And all of these ladies are completely eligible to have sponsorships. We’re just asking them to represent Vegas.”

And why not?

Because it’s coming from public funding? Well, so are the sponsorships and investments the tourism board has approved for events like the Super Bowl, F1, WrestleMania, or the NBA Summer League.

We are talking about the two-time defending champs who have become the darlings of the Sports and Entertainment Capital of the World. The town loves them, as evidenced by 15 of 20 regular season games being sold out.

I was told Tuesday night by someone sitting front row in a Clark County School District’s teacher’s seats that the person who gave her the tickets sold Saturday’s seats – against Clark and the Fever – for $1,000. Each.

Popular?

Heck, it wouldn’t surprise me if Kelsey Plum has Sun City’s senior citizen ladies puffin’ stogies and barking like big dawgs during Tuesday’s Mahjong sessions.

Las Vegas Aces guard Kelsey Plum (10) shoots the ball while Indiana Fever center Queen Egbo (4) defends in the second half at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. (Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)

‘Vegas … does things first’

“I think it’s great for expanding the game,” nine-year veteran Natasha Cloud said after her Phoenix Mercury defeated the Aces 98-88 on Tuesday. “We’re gonna hope that that continues to trickle down to every other team.

“There’s such a high demand for women’s basketball right now. It’s truly on the map every single place in the world. I feel like Vegas always does things first, right?”

Yes, Tash, it does.

In fact, this was a maneuver that certainly reeked of the way old-school Vegas was built.

Sheesh, I remember when members of the Las Vegas City Council made around $36,000 for their civic duty, and board members were given “no-show jobs” that carried titles like “business consultant” to accompany salaries nearing $100,000.

When the business owners needed some lobbying done, that’s where the consulting came in. Those backroom deals are nothing new to this town and there was nothing anyone could do because the savviest folks authored them.

So here we are.

Salary-cap avoidance

Does this in any way circumvent the WNBA salary cap? Of course, it does. But was it done by abiding by the rules without violating policy in terms of the Aces organization getting involved? The LVCVA went right to the players’ agents.

“Yeah, we did this the right way,” Hill said. “We did something that we think is smart for Las Vegas, and I think is great for the players.

“But we did this without the team. This was our idea. Any questions they ask, well, they’ll find that out.”

Hill said without hesitation the LVCVA had done nothing wrong. And you know what? With all the backroom deals I’ve been privy to in my time living here, I believe him.

The WNBA is inclined to believe otherwise and has initiated an investigation to see if the sponsorships violate league rules in terms of a little payola.

Which is why I facetiously quoted a post on “X” Tuesday morning, asking if the league was looking into a reported partnership between Clark and Wilson Sporting Goods, which apparently will give the rookie sharpshooter a signature basketball collection.

Everyone went ballistic on me. One person said I was trying to drag Clark into drama. One accused me of race-baiting. Many didn’t get the joke.

Makes sense, considering I’m not a comedian. Though there are plenty who laugh at my articles.

I honestly didn’t think the post would take off, as I was 100 percent being a smart-ass.

ESPN reporter Holly Rowe interviews Kate Martin poses with WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert after being selected with the number eighteen overall pick to the Las Vegas Aces in the 2024 WNBA Draft at Brooklyn Academy of Music. (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

Pleasant surprise for Aces

Let me repeat it, I am all for Clark making money. I’m all for the Aces making money. I’m all for the WNBA players making whatever they can — by the book.

And if you’re going to find movers and shakers who know how to get things done, including finding loopholes along the way, it’s in Las Vegas.

This takes us back to Martin, who immediately became a fan favorite and received a raucous welcome when she checked into Tuesday’s game late in the first quarter.

A sponsorship like this was a pleasant surprise considering she is grossing $67,249, according to Spotrac.com.

“Yeah, definitely more than my salary,” Martin said. “I’m super thankful. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming but this is very much real life.

“And that is what all these players deserve.”

Exactly.