By Grace Rozembajgier
With the 2016 Summer Olympics rapidly approaching, the reigning Women’s Olympic and World Cup champions are training hard. However, the US Women’s Soccer Team faces a looming issue regarding pay. The team is paid less than the men despite the fact that the women are not only more successful than the men, but attract more viewers and revenue as well. Now, the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) players are taking legal action in an attempt to level the playing field.
In the words of USWNT goalie Hope Solo, “The numbers speak for themselves,” and that they do. The USWNT makes about $0.25 for every dollar the men make. The men make a minimum of $5,000 for each game played, no matter the outcome, whereas the women earn nothing for a loss or tie. While it is true each USWNT player earns a salary of $72,000 per year while the men have no salary, this amount cannot be considered as equal pay compensation. When the math is done, the $72,000 equates to $3,600 per game. The women’s bonus for a win is $1,350 while the men’s is $8,166. This means that if the women were to lose all their games, they would receive $72,000 while the men would collect $100,000; if the women won all their games, their salary would come to $99,000 and the men’s would clock in at $263,320. Additionally, FIFA awarded the USWNT $2 million for winning the World Cup last year. The men’s team earned $9 million for placing 16th in the 2014 World Cup. The women also have a lower per diem (money for daily living expenses) than the men by more than $10 and pocket $750 less for sponsor appearances.
In some sports, such as professional basketball, men and women do not receive equal pay because they do not bring in equal viewings or revenue. However, in soccer, the relatively young women’s team is on track to soon outpace the 85 year old men’s soccer franchise. Since the first women’s soccer team in 1985, the women have consistently been successful, something that cannot be said for the men. In 1999, Mia Hamm’s World Cup team set the record for attendance and TV viewing, and last year, 25.4 million people watched the Women’s World Cup final against Japan, breaking the record for most views in all of soccer history. The women’s victory tour also broke attendance and ticket sales records in multiple cities around the world. In fact, last year, the women exceeded the revenue projection by $16 million. According to Sports Illustrated, “U.S. Soccer’s financial report shows the gap between the U.S. men and women is much closer when you look at the four years from 2014 to ’17.” As the mounting USWNT fan base and viewership rapidly grows to surpass the men’s, so should their pay.
Ever since Title IX, women have had an increased opportunity to participate in sports, and today women continue to strive for equality. On March 29, USWNT star players Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Hope Solo, and Becky Suerbrunn filed a federal complaint to US Soccer for wage discrimination, submitted to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The argument that the women’s contract includes benefits such as maternity leave and health benefits not included in the men’s contract does not hold water. If standard a 25% salary/benefit compensation ratio is applied – in the men’s worst year they still earn $100,000 to the women’s $90,000 of salary and benefits. The women are playing the same game as the men and deserve to be treated equally.
While the USWNT’s wage battle continues to be fought, this issue delves much deeper into the broader inequality of gender pay in today’s economy. On average, women in America pocket 21% less than men. This is an unacceptable inequality. As US Goalie Tim Howard said, “Any time, no matter the gender or the race, if someone feels they are underpaid, it is a problem, and…they should fight for their rights no matter what….they have their battle to fight, and they should do that.”