If you follow the world of soccer at all, you might have seen the news stories from the last couple of years about the atrocious pay discrepancy between the men’s and women’s teams. At the very least, you probably saw The Daily Show’s coverage of the issue.
In 2015, members of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team filed a federal complaint against the U.S. Soccer Federation for pay inequality because their team makes, on average, one-fourth of what the men’s team makes.
Critics were quick to point out that the demand is much lower for women’s games in general. Because earnings depend on viewership, ticket sales, and sponsorships, most of the money is being funneled into the men’s league, and rightly so. But the disparagement didn’t stop there. In fact, the serious journalists over at Fox News made sure to perpetuate the narrative that these women were whining about something that wasn’t a very big deal at all. And one particularly condescending ass at Forbes wrote an article asking if we would be willing to pay opera singer Jonas Kaufmann and Katy Perry the same amount to appear at a concert.
While it’s true that women’s soccer leagues currently earn less than men’s leagues, these detractors are failing to acknowledge a critical point: Increasing the pay of female players will draw and keep talent. Why does Cristiano Ronaldo play for Real Madrid in addition to the Portuguese national team? Because together, they pay him 32 million euro a year. An article at The Daily Beast claims that the pay discrepancy between male and female players, “isn’t a big, sexist conspiracy,” but rather, “a matter of supply and demand.” Female soccer leagues draw in fewer viewers overall, therefore, “it’s not at all unfair that female athletes make less than their male counterparts.” And while it’s true that the fanbase is much smaller for women’s leagues, this argument falls short in a couple of ways.
First, the discrepancy is, in fact, a sexist conspiracy. Women have been largely excluded from modern sports and are still struggling to compete with men who have the advantage of a decades-long head start. Second, if we invested money in paying female players enticing salaries, as well as in the development of proper facilities that draw in professional coaches, it would increase the quality of the sport and therefore its attractiveness to viewers.
Even under the guise of supposed equality introduced with the 1970s with Title IX, women have had to deal not only with societal norms which considered them delicate and unathletic, but also with behavioral double standards. And that’s if they can get people to acknowledge them at all;
Serena Williams’ accomplishments have been glossed over so many times that, if it were an Olympic event, she’d have a gold medal in it (to go along with her four in tennis) While the situation isn’t as dire as it once was (thanks to efforts by women like Billie Jean King, who appears in The Daily Show video above,) the conditions are still far from equal. The Daily Show does the best job of outlining the absolutely absurd way in which the men’s and women’s soccer teams are treated. If the numbers quoted in the video are accurate and the men’s team lost $2 million in profit while the women’s team brought in $17 million, then by the logic outlined before, the men’s team should take a massive cut in funding while the women’s team reaps the rewards.
But we all know that’s not what’s going to happen.
If the U.S. women’s team can win not one, but three World Cups under their current circumstances, imagine what they could do if they received as much attention and funding as the men’s team does for being eliminated in the first round.