Washington Mystics president Sheila Johnson says WNBA players need to be paid a lot more

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Sheila Johnson talked about how WNBA athletes are underpaid compared to their NBA counterparts at the espnW Summit, NYC.

Washington Mystics president and managing partner Sheila Johnson on Wednesday called for better pay for WNBA players, saying "our players need to be paid."

"We need money," Johnson said to applause at espnW Summit, NYC. "This is something that we are constantly fighting for. ... I really think my biggest role is going out to corporations and literally trying to sell my team for corporate sponsorship."

In response to questions about how she was attempting to grow her team, she talked about how different the WNBA players' salaries are when compared to their male counterparts in the NBA. "Most of our players have to play overseas during the winter to make anywhere from $100,000 and up. Our starting players are in the $40-50,000 [range] and our top players only make like $110,000 -- something like that. You have male NBA players who can sit on the bench the entire year and make over a million dollars."

She continued, "This just isn't fair. And so what we are trying to do, and what we are constantly fighting for, is to get these players more money. They need money. I just feel so bad when we are trying to find housing for them, and they are trying to find a car. They are the greatest athletes in the world and why should they be treated any different from the men?"

Johnson shared a story about turning a storage room into a locker room for her players, then paused and said, "It's a shame that that has to happen."

Johnson was speaking on a panel alongside Jean Afterman, senior vice president and assistant general manager for the New York Yankees. Both urged the audience to continue supporting female athletes as more take action against unfair pay.

"We have got to fight for equal pay, for locker room experience -- and it's gotten better, I know on my side, I can't speak for the others -- but I just have to continue that fight and all the other owners are fighting for the same thing too. We want our women to stand out, to be strong, to be happy. And we want them celebrated. They deserve it."

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