The gender pay gap has been a long-debated topic and the fight for wage equality has been straining between the sexes. Only recently are women being paid more, yet it is still only an average of seventy-nine cents to the man’s dollar. However, most minorities, both men and women, have it even worse than their white counterparts; while African Americans make sixty-one cents, Native Americans make fifty-nine cents, and Latinx make fifty-five cents to the white man’s dollar. According to the World Economic Forum, women around the globe earn on average $12,000 a year, compared to a man’s $21,000. Yet, most people still think that “this pay gap is not evidence of discrimination, but is instead a statistical artifact of failing to adjust for factors that could drive earnings differences between men and women” (Schieder). If it is not discrimination then what is it?
Major league sports are a noticeable area where this pay gap can be distinctly viewed. Women in sports such as Billie Jean King, a world-famous tennis player, and many players from the United States Women’s National Soccer Team, also known as the USWNT, are fighting to end this inequality and discrimination once and for all. Athletes should be paid on the basis of how well the team performs, not of the basis of gender, and they should be given equal training and game field conditions to their male counterparts.
To give context to a previous lawsuit, in 2016, five of the highest-ranking players on the USWNT: Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, and Becky Sauerbrunn, filed a suit against the United States Soccer Federation, or USSF, for the first time. Much like in their most recent lawsuit against the federation, the women felt that they were being discriminated against based on their gender. Unfortunately, the case was quickly ended when the USSF “recounted the role the federation has played in the growth of women’s soccer, including its introduction to the Olympic Games and in providing full-time salaries for top players” (Das, “Top Female Players Accuse”). It is here where the federation essentially tells the women that they are lucky to have the ability to play soccer at the national level and to compete in the World Cup and Olympic games, which is not something often said to men because they have always been seen as righteous in sports and women must prove their way to even be allowed to play at a competitive level. This goes hand in hand with how “opportunities for women to participate in sports have increased greatly in the more than 40 years since the passage of the gender-equity legislation known as Title IX. But sports officials continue to struggle with matters of compensation” (Das, “Top Female Players Accuse”). Rendering the federation’s actions not only unethical but also illegal. This leads up to the most recent lawsuit.
On March 8, 2019, International Women’s Day, twenty-eight the United States Women’s National Team players came forward and filed another lawsuit after receiving confirmation from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, that they could pursue one under the Equal Pay Act and the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. “The EEOC probably put a lot of resources and effort into trying to get it solved and investigating it... and finally said, 'Look, we can't get anything else done. You've got to go pursue your lawsuit or not.” (Hays). The team hopes to follow in the footsteps of Billie Jean King, a woman who started paving the way for woman to fight for equal pay by beating one of the greatest male tennis players of that time, Bobby Riggs, in a 1973 tennis match that was appropriately deemed the name “Battle of the Sexes”. Billie Jean King’s victory of this match is often credited with both starting a movement in women’s sports participation with the achievement of title IX which states “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance” (Department of Justice), and for empowering women to advocate for equal pay in all sectors of the workforce, not just sports.
Not only did Billie Jean King fight for equality in tennis, but even to this day she is still campaigning for equality in women’s soccer too. In a New York Times article, King reportedly states “It’s not like they don’t know it... when there’s a crisis, there’s an opportunity. It’s a moment to have a historic transformation at FIFA, and I will make my case” (Clarey). Here King suggests that if FIFA and the USSF can come together and make changes to the league it would be a historical time that is long overdue for the women. The players along with the help of King “are seeking equitable pay and treatment… The class-action request would allow any players for the team since February 2015 to join the case” (Hays). This ability to include past USWNT players like Hope Solo and Abby Wambach, who were a part of the original 2016 lawsuit, will make their class stronger and show how the USSF has discriminated against the women for so long. The Equal Pay Act prohibits discrimination of pay based on sex and according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “Title VII also makes it illegal to discriminate based on sex in pay and benefits. Therefore, someone who has an Equal Pay Act claim may also have a claim under Title VII” (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). However, “It is clear that if the pay gap is to be fully addressed, a complex response is needed. Yet, as a closer look reveals, the Equal Pay Act is ill-equipped to deal with this challenge.” (Fredman). Being able to give these women the justice they deserve starts with reforming the Equal Pay Act and Title IX.
Given the following numbers, the men’s team would make more money for simply qualifying for the World Cup than the women’s team would for winning the World Cup. In an article, “The Difference Between What the US Men's and Women's Soccer Players Make is Shocking” published by Business Insider, a chart is provided that compares the statistical pay difference between the two teams if each were to win or lose the minimum required twenty “friendly” games, as well as if they were to win or lose half of their twenty games. If both teams lost all twenty games the men would make a maximum of $100,000 while the women would cap out at solely $72,000. This is a twenty-eight percent difference in player pay. Given that each team won all twenty games, the men’s team would receive up to $263,320 and the women’s team would only get up to $99,000, a sixty-two percent difference in pay (Gaines). Why is this difference so high when the women are winning nearly all of their games? Simply for qualifying for the World Cup, the men’s team would be rewarded $2.5 million compared to the women's team’s $345,000 and for winning the World Cup the men would receive $9.3 million while the women’s award would be only $1.8 million. The pay gap is very evident if you look at the numbers.
Not only is the pay gap blatantly gender discriminatory, but the women’s team is far superior, performance wise than the men’s team in terms of wins and losses of friendly matches, Olympic medals, and World Cups. Co-captain of the Women’s National Team, Carli Lloyd, in her lawsuit statements said "In light of our team's unparalleled success on the field, it's a shame that we still are fighting for treatment that reflects our achievements and contributions to the sport. We have made progress in narrowing the gender pay gap, however, progress does not mean that we will stop working to realize our legal rights and make equality a reality for our sport." (Baxer). In 2018, the USWNT won ninety percent, tied twenty percent, and lost none of their twenty games. Compared to the United States Men’s National Team, or USMNT, who won thirty percent, tied twenty percent, and lost forty percent of their ten games. The women's team has also won a total of three World Cups so far and hope to win their fourth this summer of 2019 in France while the men have still yet to win a World Cup failing to even qualify for the World Cup in 2018. As an article by ABC News states “Women Earn the Glory While Men Earn the Money in U.S. Soccer” (Davis). Not only have the women won more World Cups, but they have also won four Olympic gold medals whereas the men have not won any.
The USWNT has also been ranked number one in the world for ten of the past eleven years and has broken the record for the most watched soccer game in the history of America between men or women, while the men remain ranked at twenty-fourth in the world. The women’s national team has undoubtedly outperformed their male counterparts and the men’s team knows it as they support the women’s lawsuit as Alex Morgan states in an interview, “The men have also come out and said that they are in support of us as well and so we respect them so much for that… you know you are doing something right when you gain that support from people around you to help lift you up” (Bankert). The men showing their support for the women’s team should make it very clear to the USSF that the women deserve to be given what they have earned.
Travel expenses, otherwise known as the per diem rate, is another area where the women are not equally compensated. The women's team receives only fifty dollars a day for domestic travel and sixty dollars a day for international travel compared to the men’s team’s sixty-two dollars for domestic travel and seventy-five dollars a day for international travel. Carli Lloyd ridiculed the United States Soccer Federation over this difference in her New York Times essay, writing that “maybe they think women are smaller and thus eat less” (Das, “Pay Disparity in U.S. Soccer?”). What makes the men worthy of receiving more money than the women for simply traveling to their games?
The women’s team is also subject to poorer field conditions compared to the men’s team. The Women’s National Team is consistently being forced to play their games, including the World Cup, on artificial turf, also known as astroturf, rather than on natural grass. In 2015, Hope Solo, then the USWNT’s goalkeeper, posted a photo of the ripped artificial turf they were expected to play on that night and stated, “Our loyal fans: Thanks for standing with us against field conditions and standing tall for #equal treatment” (Solo). Artificial turf is very harmful to an athlete’s body. In an article by the Hospital for Special Surgery some of the most common injuries that were listed are anterior cruciate ligament tears, commonly known as an ACL tear, concussions, ankle sprains, major knee injuries, and turf burn (Drakos). Turf also heats up forty to seventy degrees more than the temperature outside sometimes reaching temperatures of one hundred- and eighty-degrees Fahrenheit oftentimes melting cleats and causing heat stroke, which can be very detrimental to the safety and health of the players. The women should not be subject to these poor conditions just because they are not the men who the Soccer Federation favors.
Opposing views claim that women deserve to earn less and should just get second jobs such as Gavin McInnes who states “Women do earn less in America because they chose to… you are playing a man’s game by a man’s rules this is the way it is in our world. You have got to earn it.” When given the suggestion to just get second jobs Hope Solo responded “We do not have time to go be an Uber driver. We put in the time to win gold medals for this team.” (Minhaj). Others believe that the women just do not bring in any money as an NBC Sports article states, “...The fact is, women's soccer just doesn't generate the sort of money -- at least so far -- that the men's game does” (Jaynes). However, according to the United States Soccer Federation’s own numbers, the women’s national team has brought in nearly seventeen million in profit each year and the men’s national team consistently loses the federation nearly two million in profit.
In conclusion, female athletes should not just be fighting for equal pay, they should be fighting to be paid more than the men’s team in addition to benefiting from equal per diems and field conditions. Salary should be paid based upon how the team performs not based on whether they are male or female. The evidence makes it overwhelmingly clear that the United States Women’s National Team outperforms the Men’s National Team in all aspects of play to which they deserve the same treatment and field conditions and that they have earned the right to be paid more than the men. As Alex Morgan, USWNT forward states, “Each of us is extremely proud to wear the United States jersey, and we also take seriously the responsibility that comes with that. We believe that fighting for gender equality in sports is a part of that responsibility. As players, we deserved to be paid equally for our work, regardless of our gender” (Hays). I encourage you and others to support female sports in order to cease the inequality between the sexes.