The U.S. Women’s Soccer team has a lot to celebrate following their recent World Cup Victory over the Netherlands on July 7th. However, the celebration has been dampened by the recollection that the women are still not earning the same salaries as the men’s team, despite their immense success in recent years. The thoughts surrounding equal pay are complicated due to the many factors that have to go into it. This includes balancing the salaries for not only how much the players play, but also the level at which they are playing at. Because of this, there has been a great amount of backlash from a variety of people saying there is no such thing as equal pay in soccer due to the differences in the style of play within the men and women’s leagues. But what the women are truly fighting for is to be paid what they deserve in relation to how the men would be paid if they reached the same level of success. In the aftermath of the U.S. women’s soccer team’s World Cup victory, it is evident that the women should be getting paid equally to men due to their history of success and the worldwide recognition they have been attracting to the sport.
How The Women Are Paid
As reported by the New York Times, the women who are involved with the U.S. national team make a base salary of $72,500, along with a bonus of $1,350 for each game they win. However, they do not receive any type of bonus if they lose or tie a game. The men’s team goes off of another structure for getting paid, as they are paid per game. This is because there are players that come on and off the team, as the year progresses.
Comparing Earnings Between The Teams
In the majority of sports, it is usually the case that men’s teams are going to attract a larger audience than women simply because men’s sports are consistently thought of as more exciting to watch. For women’s soccer this remained the case up until 2015, when the women began to gain a substantial amount of attention due to their significant success after their World Cup win over Japan. Since the women’s World Cup came to be in 1991, the U.S. team’s women have won three out of the seven titles. They also have had success in the Olympics as they have won four out of the six gold medals since women’s soccer was implemented in 1996.
As shown by The New York Times, there has consistently been a pay gap between the men and women’s players. Between the years of 2008 and 2015, the highest paid woman was paid $1.2 million, compared to the $1.4 million paid to the highest paid male player. At the lower salaries, the gap grows even larger. For the players listed at number 50 on the New York Times list, the male player made over 10 times the female player did. The women have had an immense amount of success over the last couple of decades, often much more than the men, yet are not getting the same recognition for it.
Response Previous To The World Cup Win
The women had been fighting for equal pay for years leading up to their most recent win, beginning with Abby Wambach’s commencement speech at Barnard College. In this controversial message she detailed her experience after winning the Icon Award from ESPN. She recalls how she felt so grateful that women were being awarded with such an honor alongside legends like Peyton Manning, and Kobe Bryant. However, she soon realized that “Kobe and Peyton walked away from their careers with something [she] didn’t have: enormous bank accounts. Because of that, they had something else [she] didn’t have: freedom. Their hustling days were over, and [hers] were just beginning”. While she was one of the most talented and well-known female athletes, her earnings could not compare to how the men had been paid. Wambach then goes on to drive home the point that even outside of sports, women make 80 cents to the men’s dollar, with women of color making even less. This leads to difficulties for women to sometimes have enough money to support themselves, especially if they are a single income household. In this speech she restarted the conversation of the pay gap in hopes to try and make a difference to gain a level of gender equality both in sports, and life.
In March of 2019, members of the women’s national team had enough with the pay gap, and sued the U.S. soccer federation over pay equality and work conditions. The law suit filed by the women details the way in which it greatly affects how they are able to train, and where they want to play. It is described how the quality of travel, coaching, and treatment they received compared to that of the men. The players involved in the lawsuit include Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, and Megan Rapinoe, whom are some of the best athletes in the world. All these players want is to receive the amount of pay that they deserve for transforming the sport of soccer, for women, and the United States. There were some changes made to help close the gap, but true equality has still not been reached.
Response From Outside The Sport
This fight for equality has made many people in and outside the sport speak up about the issue. The brand, Secret, plays a major part in this issue, as a sponsor for the women’s soccer team. In the past, the brand has worked with numerous powerful female athletes, showing their support for equal pay. It is the first brand to do so for the women’s soccer team, as the issue is polarizing for so many people.
The brand has agreed to donate $529,000 to help close the gap. This means they are giving $23,000 to each of the 23 players on the team. To visualize their support to the world, they took out a full page ad in the New York Times. In the ad it is described how they want to “propel women’s sports forward”. Hopefully this sponsorship by a major brand, will inspire others to do the same, and end the inequality.
What Needs To Be Done
In order for the level of equality the players desire to be reached, a change needs to be made in the format in which the athletes are getting paid. For the men, they make the same amount of money the women do, but only if they lose all of their games. That is the only way men would make close to the same amount of women in the current format. The men go under a pay as you play rule, where you are paid for individual games, over a base salary. If the women were to adopt that structure, they would be getting that same amount per game, as they are playing the same sport, often at a higher level than the men, shown by their results. The fight for equality has been a long one, with very little progress, but with the U.S. women’s soccer team doing it in such a public setting, there is a greater amount of hope for major change to come.
[Image Attribute: Spurekar]