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Denied Parity, Marina Mabrey Monetizes the Mundane

Notre Dame star sells social media exclusivity during WNBA offseason

Photo by Tim Heitman/NBAE via Getty Images

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There is little glamorous about being a WNBA player who starts, but is not a team’s core player.

Consider Marina Mabrey, a 2019 Notre Dame graduate who recently finished her third year with the Dallas Wings. The Belmar, N.J. native made $58,170 for her 32 starts (34 games) this past season, according to Spotrac.

Mabrey supplements her paltry pay by accepting more lucrative gigs playing overseas. This month, she’s suiting up for Beretta Famila Schio of the Lega Basket Femminile — the most prestigious Italian women’s basketball league. The northern team, playing out of the province of Vincenza, has loaded its rosters with WNBA talent for 20 years.

Mabrey’s European salary isn’t publicized, but W players reportedly make between $50,000 and $125,000 for their services in top Italian leagues.

That’s still nowhere near Diana Taurasi’s WNBA supermax salary of $228,094, to say nothing of the former UConn standout’s various endorsement deals. (Mabrey did a paid spot for Gainbridge, a financial literacy company. She also has a relationship with Alo, a fitness attire company, but it’s unclear if there’s a financial component.)

So Mabrey — who missed the name, image and likeness era of collegiate athletics — turned last week to a hustle familiar to those with a significant social media following: the subscription model.

The 26-year-old promised her patron feed, which can be unlocked for a monthly fee of $4.99, would help her 49,700 Instagram followers “get to know everything about my story” — “ND Days, growing up in Jersey, the struggles, the good times, my workouts/off season.”

As a Notre Dame graduate who also grew up in the Garden State, I figured it’d be worth at least a one month trial.

SEPT. 12

Mabrey’s first post is a 52-second compilation of her workout. We’re watching some stability work with a kettlebell and some lighter weights. There are two comments on this post from one person, with the first asking about overseas play. Mabrey’s subscription offered an “exclusive chat,” but I’m not Instagram-savvy enough to know where that may be happening.

SEPT. 14

It’s Mabrey’s 26th birthday, and we’re celebrating by...having her detail her favorite products from Sephora. It’s about a minute clip that ends with, “Tune in part two when I do all my eye makeup.” The second segment, however, is available to all on Mabrey’s regular landing page. That’s probably for the best, as the Sephora haul exclusive has 50 views and its publicly-available part 2 has 8,760, as of this writing.

SEPT. 19

Marina cuts up a minute of her day in New York City, where her agenda is to obtain a visa before her Italian trip. Here’s what we learn:

  • She drinks coffee.
  • She has a difficult time finding a priority mail express envelope in a city of 63 post offices.
  • She treats herself to a mani/pedi.
  • “If you are ever walking in New York City, don’t stop in the middle of the street. It never works out for you.” (This is actually solid advice.)
  • She asks for extra quinoa with her salmon at The Little Beet Table, and they gave her one additional tablespoon. What did she expect from a restaurant that bills itself as “vegetable-forward”?
  • The entire excursion takes about eight hours.

SEPT. 24

While her followers and subscribers await new content, let’s talk about Mabrey’s WNBA contract status. As a player with four years of service time, Mabrey is now a “restricted free agent.” The Wings can send her a new contract offer between Jan. 1 and Jan. 14. If they do, then they retain the right to match any offer she gets from another team and keep her. If they don’t, she becomes an “unrestricted free agent” and can sign with any team she’d like. Mabrey can start official talks with the 11 other WNBA teams from Jan. 15 onward, and sign with any of them on or after Feb. 1. If she re-signs with the Wings, it’ll be anytime between Jan. 14 and the start of the season.

The Wings have Arike Ogunbowale, Mabrey’s college teammate, signed for at least three more seasons. Teaira McCowan, who readers may recall from the 2017-18 Mississippi State Bulldogs team that finished runner-up to Notre Dame that year, is also a restricted free agent. Power forward Isabelle Harrison is an unrestricted free agent and was outspoken about her clashes with former Wings coach Vickie Johnson.

SEPT. 25

Marina has initiated a chat, in which she’s asking for input on what kind of content we want. My group is called “subscriber chat 2,” because groups are limited to 30 individuals. It feels sort of like when “Lost” revealed the “Tailies” in season two. Is “subscriber chat 1” more energetic than our tribe?!

There seems to be 23 men — including myself — and 7 women in our chat. Our requests include two asks for Italy content, two additional requests for commentary on Notre Dame games (whether that means football or women’s basketball is unclear) and one ask for “day in the life” content on gamedays, training methods and more shopping content.

I ask for Marina’s thoughts on prioritization, discrepancies in her Italian pay versus her W salary and what she liked best about playing in Los Angeles. (Mabrey was drafted by the Sparks and played one year in the Southland.)

SEPT. 28

Marina is now in Italy, at a hotel near the Gulf of Alghero. She’s joined her European team, which won the 2022 Italian Super Cup against Virtus Bologna on Wednesday.

Porticciolo tower, Nurra, Alghero, Sardinia Getty Images

There is a new post, and a couple of new non-exclusive stories. The subscribers get another picture of Mabrey reflected in a mirror. She is standing in an elevator.

“I was about to show you guys a yoga video, but it started raining,” she wrote. “So now it’s just a pic of me.”

OCT. 4

Mabrey didn’t tweet or share this, but I believe it provides the context for why she — and many of her WNBA colleagues — gravitate toward low-friction side-hustles. Their worth as basketball players is inadequately compensated.

OCT. 6

I cannot recall of whether the 3-second “exclusive” clip of Marina riding in a car was Monday or Tuesday, but regardless we have some actual content to digest today.

The first shot is a Boomerang of a train ride. Nothing much to it.

The second video is lunch, where Marina and an unidentified man — also using his phone, assumedly for recording purposes — are being poured some cabernet sauvignon which retails at about $6 USD. It would seem to be local to the area where she plays basketball.

The third video is the first course, which is tomato, mozzarella and basil for Marina and prosciutto and melon for her companion. Marina approves of the appetizer, I guess, because she exclaims “Oh my God” after sampling it onscreen.

The fourth video is the pasta course, which is pesto based for Marina and it looks like traditional marina and meatballs for the friend.

OCT. 13

Either Marina is gaslighting her subscribers or something isn’t working as intended.

Today, she posted a picture of herself in workout attire flashing the peace sign. The caption says, “When you finally have the morning off overseas, so it’s spa time. I’ll post some videos.”

Hey, that sounds fun! Are the spas in Italian hotels unique from their American counterparts? Perhaps we will find out!

We did not find out. Marina does not post another subscriber exclusive for the remainder of the day.

OCT. 14

There are no spa videos, but Marina is back with an exclusive video for her subscribers. She’s curled up in bed, with the covers pulled to her neckline as she says, sleepily:

“Ok, so I know I was going to do a tour of my apartment. But like I haven’t cleaned it all. So I’m going to clean it today and then...I’ll do a tour.”

OCT. 15

I signed up for Marina’s Instagram exclusives on Sept. 15 with the promises of learning more about her “ND Days, growing up in Jersey, the struggles, the good times, my workouts/off season.”

Marina has posted plenty of non-exclusive content about her younger sister, Dara, who is playing her graduate year at Notre Dame for the women’s basketball team. But we’ve learned nothing about Marina’s own ND days.

We also didn’t learn anything about growing up in Jersey.

If there were struggles, I’m not certain what they were (although, in a non-exclusive post, she called John Kehoe’s “Quantum Warrior: The Future of the Mind” “the best book ever...It changed my life.”) There was the day she didn’t realize she needed a priority mail express envelope, but that’s not what I had in mind when I gladly forked over $5.

We were given one snippet of workout, and the rest of the content could charitably be called “off-season.”

Mabrey has yet to play for Famila Schio even though Rhyne Howard, who arrived after her, has appeared in two of the team’s first three regular season games. Are there ongoing visa issues? Is there an injury? We have no insight.

As for subscriber-initiated asks, Mabrey has offered us one look at an Italian meal, no Notre Dame commentary and nothing about “day in the life” on gamedays, training methods or additional shopping content. She’s also been mum about prioritization and LA recommendations, although I did not expect an immediate answer on either.

It’s probably no surprise, then, that I decided to unsubscribe. I kept expectations low for a $5 monthly endeavor, but the eight days of content (out of 30) — likely totaling less than 15 minutes — did not persuade me to continue patronizing.

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