How should we compare Scott Avedisian’s severance package and Caitlin Clark’s basketball salary?

The short answer is that we shouldn’t, but Bill Bartholomew’s attempt is worth a double-take and some thought about what he’s missing:

at nearly 68k, Scott Avedisian’s termination payment is almost as much as the contract that the most exciting player in college basketball, Caitlin Clark, signed after being selected first overall in the WNBA draft last night

The tweet is a fine example of a particularly progressive means of argumentation.  Bartholomew presents two news items that have nothing in common other than the fact that they both involve people being paid money related to jobs.  The context and phrasing make clear that he thinks the comparison shows self-evident injustice.  The disgraced white Republican male (presumably getting no credit for being gay, in this context) collects a parting check from a state agency, while “the most exciting player in college basketball” languishes with low pay, as the latest example women making less money as professional athletes.

Thus, the argument, such as it is, derives from little more than a projection of a virtue signal.  And because the self-evident nature of the injustice substitutes for explanation, the complaint is an invitation for any sort of policy suggestion that progressives can assert will make a difference.  Predictably, explanation of the mechanisms that make any policy likely to work will be passed over in favor of assertions that progressive policies can’t help but resolve progressive problems.

A grown-up polity, however, has to put some details on its analyses.  I’m no fan of Avedisian, or the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA), for that matter, but the job he’s leaving is as the chief executive of an agency with a nine-figure budget.  We can debate the public policies of the agency, but thousands of people rely on it for both economic production and day-to-day living and urgent needs.  To run this organization, the chief has to navigate an uncomfortable political atmosphere in which he or she is always one bad decision away from a scorching public spotlight, and special interests are constantly pulling every lever they can find to get more out of the system.

Yeah, I know, woe is the lonely bureaucrat.  The point is simply that it isn’t unreasonable for RIPTA to send the message that qualified people taking such a job don’t have to worry about being totally cut off on short notice should a moment of bad judgment (even really bad judgment) make them politically vulnerable.

On the other side of the comparison, we should note that Clark’s pay is annual and, moreover, it probably isn’t even a substantial fraction of the money she can expect to make.  The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) — which does not have the profits of its men’s counterpart — is providing her a platform from which she will surely make millions of dollars endorsing products.  That is how a free-market economy recognizes people for being “the most exciting player” in a sport.

In fact, if there is any unfair factor contributing to the level Clark’s pay, it’s probably the fact that the WNBA is unionized.  I haven’t reviewed the terms of the union contract, but they tend to be levelling, making it more difficult for the league to recognize Clark’s unique situation.  To be sure, men’s sports show that in high-variety, big-money ventures like professional sports, labor unions tend to be less able to demand rigid pay scales, but if the likes of Bartholomew are looking for villains in the identity politics war, there are plenty of alleys they can explore.

 

Featured image by Justin Katz using Dall-E 3.

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Monique Chartier
Editor
1 month ago

So on the one hand, we have a one-time $68K severance package and on the other, a $76K annual salary PLUS a multi-year, multi-million dollar endorsement deal. And the “victim” of unfair compensation in this case is the latter?? Yikes; this doesn’t compute on any level.

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