Women’s soccer shows disparity in gender wages
As the United States Women’s National Team bulldozes through the year, it’s starting to look like 2015 won’t be the biggest thing to happen to women’s soccer since the ’90s, when women’s pro soccer got its start.
Last year, the USWNT won its third World Cup and finally received some significant national recognition. It was welcomed in New York City’s Canyon of Heroes, a rank normally reserved for men. The 24-player roster became the first female sports team to be honored with a ticker tape parade. All before starting its cross-country victory tour.
Yet recent gender discrimination allegations over the pay gap in U.S. Soccer is just one of several reasons why 2016 is quickly putting 2015’s success in the past.
USWNT members were winners on the field, but they dealt with a number of unfair concessions. Prior to the World Cup’s kickoff, FIFA snuffed out an 80-player sexual discrimination charge over forcing the women’s teams to play on turf. Beyond health concerns and the sanctity of the game, it is simply something the men would never even be asked to consider.
Companies even offered to pay for the installation of the grass, but FIFA wouldn’t budge. Instead, they threatened players with suspension.
There was a general lack of support from FIFA for the World Cup. There were less amenities and merchandise, and even players’ own families couldn’t find souvenirs. The players’ salaries were terrible too. The men’s 2014 World Cup prize money: $576 million. The 2015 Women’s World Cup prize money: $15 million.
But there was nothing the women’s team could do but play.
“The players need to get paid for what they’re worth,” USWNT forward Alex Morgan said. “It’s going to take time, but I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
The women were absolutely regal in attitude. But by early December, the team, once again, asked for the USWNT to play on turf during their very own Victory Tour at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu against Trinidad and Tobago. U.S. soccer claimed the pitch was safe to play, but Morgan found it to be “horrible.” Ultimately, the women boycotted the game, forcing U.S. Soccer to offer refunds to fans.
“No one’s really going to protect us but ourselves,” Morgan said.
Having played the part of good-girl gold medalists and perfected their international clout, the women are proving that they can’t stop and won’t stop in 2016.
Only five of the USWNT players took the legal route. The rest of the team took other avenues to support the “Equal Play, Equal Pay” cause. The five heavyweight veterans, Carli Lloyd, Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn and Alex Morgan, carry a mantle laid down by their predecessors.
“I think the timing is right,” Lloyd told NBC News. “I think we’ve proven our worth over the years. The pay disparity between the men and women is just too large. The generation of players before us fought, and now it’s our job to keep on fighting.”
The men’s national team’s most notable international achievement in the past half-century was the 2002 World Cup quarterfinal appearance. A men’s team player receives $5,000 for a loss in a friendly match and up to $17,625 for a win against a top opponent, while a female player receives $1,350 for a similar match, wins only – no bonuses.
“This is one of the strongest cases of gender discrimination I have ever seen,” the players’ attorney Jeffrey Kessler said. “The women have outperformed the men on the field and in every other way yet earn a fraction of what the men are paid.”
U.S. Soccer’s response:
“We’re disappointed about this action. We’ve been a world leader in women’s soccer and are proud of the commitment we’ve made to building the women’s game in the United States over the past 30 years.”
Now, USWNT is taking an offensive strategy, like the champions before them.
“We are the best in the world,” Solo said in a news release. “(We) have three championships, four Olympic championships, and the (men’s national team) gets paid more to just show up than we get paid to win.”
But the women aren’t just in it for the money. The medium is the message. It’s a fight for equality. They understand that their presence as professional athletes comes at another price: respect, awareness and equality.
“We’re asking for a baseline of respect,” Rapinoe said.
Opinion columnist Leah Lucio is a journalism senior and may be reached at [email protected]