Sue Fowl on the economics of women’s hoops and more

Economist Steven Levitt interviewed Sue Chook a short while ago on People today I (Mainly) Admire, his new podcast on the Freakanomics Radio Community.



Sue Bird on a court with a racket: Sue Bird chats with economist Steven Levitt on the most recent episode of the podcast “People I (Mostly) Admire.”


© Photograph by Stephen Gosling/NBAE by means of Getty Pictures
Sue Fowl chats with economist Steven Levitt on the most new episode of the podcast “People I (Typically) Admire.”

In his introduction to the episode, Levitt expresses some trepidation about interviewing an athlete for a podcast that, in his estimation, “works best when my visitors are highly reflective and willing and ready to self-assess.” Levitt elaborates, “And in my restricted individual practical experience with skilled athletes, all those are not really prevalent qualities.”

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Nonetheless, women’s hoops admirers will completely concur with his addendum about Hen: “People who know her say she’s good, thoughtful, generous, and open.”

It would seem Chook promptly proved herself to be much more than sufficiently reflective and self-analytical.

She and Levitt began their discussion with dialogue of the psychological, mental, spatial and structural areas of basketball — the positives and perils of overconfidence, smarter instruction strategies, what “feel for the game” actually means, the impact of courtroom traces and sight strains on taking pictures, free of charge-toss shooting beneath stress, the sneaky complications of taking pictures a women’s ball and if the rim should be decreased in the women’s video game.

I consider persons appear at men’s athletics and promptly see likely, even if it doesn’t exist. —Sue Bird

Levitt and Chook then transitioned to the economics of women’s basketball, albeit not in advance of delighting in the winning ways of UConn women’s basketball and the Usa Basketball Women’s Nationwide Group.

Right here are some highlights from the job interview:

On UConn’s dominance

Questioned by Levitt to make clear UConn’s unparalleled dominance for the duration of the very first two a long time of the 21st century, Hen emphasized the expertise of Huskies’ teams. Then, questioned why numerous of the most-proficient players pick out to go to UConn, Chicken shared her recruiting expertise:

And Coach Auriemma — there — there were being no bells and whistles. He’s variety of just like, ‘What’s up? This is who I am. This is who we are. We believe you’d fit. Hope you like it right here.’ And that is how he was with me. It wasn’t, like, choose it or go away it, but it was just extremely make a difference of actuality. And I was drawn in by that. Like, I beloved that.

Bird also insisted that, at the very least at the time, dominance was not unexciting:

The minute you phase on that campus, you’re just consuming the UConn Kool-Aid. Now, I appear at it, and I’m like, ‘Oh, my God, how do they not get bored? They are winning by 30.’ But when you are there, you don’t come to feel that way since you’re just predicted to play at a particular amount. And in get to engage in at that level, you can not have a working day off.



Sue Bird with a football ball: Sue Bird at UConn.


© Getty Photographs
Sue Hen at UConn.

On Staff USA’s excellence

Like the Huskies, the Usa Basketball Women’s National Team generally dominates, commonly thrashing overmatched international opponents. Bird described to Levitt the significance of 40-as well as-stage wins for Group United states of america:

So, even even though we’re extra gifted, we’re not pretty a staff. So, in these two months, of course, we’re beating teams by 40, but people game titles are all like stepping stones and practices for us to ideally be peaking at the stop. Due to the fact when you get to the medal rounds, these online games are no joke. You can lose all those game titles simple. So, we’re so on it and so focused in the early parts of the Olympics that it is hardly ever dull. Due to the fact the score does not definitely make any difference to us. We’re not participating in for the score. We’re participating in so we’re peaking at the correct time.

On the pay out disparity concerning NBA and WNBA players

Questioned by Levitt if she is disappointed by the fork out gap among NBA and WNBA players, Hen answered in the affirmative. A lot more importantly, she emphasised some of the deep-seated, structural attitudes that lead to these kinds of fork out-similar frustrations:

I mean, male athletes, female athletes — we all set in the very same amount of get the job done, I really don’t treatment what anyone says, we’re all placing in the similar amount of money of operate. So, is it a hard pill to swallow, knowing that any individual else’s do the job is becoming rewarded? At times. But I dwell in reality. I recognize company and economics. We’re looked at in 1 of two ways. Some persons search at us as like charity. Like, ‘Oh, we’ll help them out,’ in a charitable perception, not in, like, this business enterprise investment way. And if they do search at us as an financial investment, quickly, it is talked about how we do not make revenue… I believe men and women appear at men’s sports activities and right away see possible, even if it doesn’t exist. But they are keen to make investments in the opportunity, whilst we are hardly ever — we haven’t been invested in our prospective.



Sue Bird standing in front of a crowd: WNBPA executive committee member Sue Bird chats with NBPA president Chris Paul at 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend.


© Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Photographs
WNBPA executive committee member Sue Hen chats with NBPA president Chris Paul at 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend.

On highest salaries for WNBA superstars

“If economics have been authorized to definitely function, you would be paid 5 instances as much as you are,” Levitt insisted.

He even further suggested “that financial forces are remaining muted by union bargaining, which is primary your wage to be way below your current market wage.” Levitt also famous that Chook was compensated much a lot more in Russia because “the market place was permitted to do the job,” and she did not disagree. Nonetheless, she highlighted how the WNBA’s new CBA ensures that superstars get paid their worth:

So, it is really exciting you carry this up, mainly because I retain bringing up this new CBA. And I’m on the executive committee. And my full argument was you have to pay back the superstars. Like, you have to spend the best players.

She then defined how, below the previous CBA:

[T]he income cap was rising at a more rapidly amount than the max salary was. So the income cap was heading up, but the max salary wasn’t at the identical charge. So there would be excess revenue, so to converse, simply because you can only shell out your most effective participant so much. It was, like, if you ended up a leading player, no issue what you did, you had been just likely to make this just one sum of revenue.

The new CBA addresses this concern. In accordance to Hen:

So, I thought that it desired to be like a merit for people max salaries. And it worked due to the fact the max income went from $117,000 to $215,000. And now, it’ll only be like maybe a single max participant a team or probably two if you want to pay other folks less or have a lot more rookie-scale contracts or whatsoever the circumstance. And if you go and glance at other leagues, LeBron James would make 25 percent of his team’s cap. But we had been at 10, 11 {23996c8f5258275f450f40d5a867c22ad72c04895f28059581bc525cc6cb4bd0}. And so, luckily for us, we revamped it. So, we bumped that up to, like, 15 or 16 now.

“By rising salaries, I imagine WNBA gamers will get started to get a very little bit more ownership of this league,” Bird further mentioned. “And when you have that, when you have player invest in-in, good factors frequently occur.”

On deciding upon to be open about freezing her eggs

The financial worries of WNBA players extend further than their salaries and sponsorships. Household arranging also has financial ramifications, as one’s key earning decades as an athlete overlap with one’s key reproductive years. By publicly discussing freezing her eggs, Chicken hopes to make these issues far more navigable for women athletes, as nicely as girls far more broadly. She shared:

For me, my system is my profession. So, that does make it a minor exclusive. But I feel, any female who has a job, getting a loved ones is a stressor. You know, married or not, just figuring out that your ovaries are on this clock, can be a large pressure in your everyday living. I preferred to help be a aspect of the discussion that was going to normalize it, maybe it would be strange if you didn’t freeze your eggs in 20 a long time.



a person wearing a costume: Sue Bird celebrates winning the 2020 WNBA title with now-fiancée Megan Rapinoe.


© Picture by Julio Aguilar/Getty Pictures
Sue Chicken celebrates winning the 2020 WNBA title with now-fiancée Megan Rapinoe.

Verify out the relaxation of Levitt’s dialogue with Chicken to also listen to her explore:

  • coming out and residing authentically
  • posing for ESPN the Magazine’s Body Challenge
  • her working experience of Megan Rapinoe’s “fight” with previous president Donald Trump
  • her suggestions to young girls
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