Shooting For Equality
It is no secret that male and female professional athletes are treated differently. Often, female athletes are forced to accept less funding, fewer sponsorships, older equipment and training facilities, worse and fewer television times, and possibly the most important, lower pay. While male professional athletes can make enough money to retire in just a few seasons, female professional athletes often need to play in overseas leagues during the offseason to get by.
Despite winning the 2019 FIFA World Cup, the US Women’s soccer team is paid as little as 38 percent per game as their male counterparts. On March 8, 2021, the US Women’s soccer team filed a lawsuit against the Unites States Soccer Federation (USSF), saying the pay gap was due to their gender. Recently, a huge victory in the battle against gender discrepancies was won when the US Women’s National Soccer team won a multimillion landmark equal pay settlement.
The agreement between the USSF and the women players will give players $22 million dollars to split, part of which is to compensate for the lower wages they were paid in the past. The USSF also agreed to set an equal rate of pay and equal World Cup bonuses between the men’s and women’s teams. In addition, the USSF promised to establish a $2 million dollar fund for charitable efforts to grow the sport for women and for player’s post-soccer careers
“I think we are going to look back on this day and say this is the moment that U.S. Soccer changed for the better,” Megan Rapinoe, one of the US Women’s Soccer team’s biggest stars
Despite the victory, many say work needs to be done to achieve gender equality in sports.
“We still see a huge disparity in terms of production value, sponsorship dollars, regular support of a league,”. Brianna Newland, a clinical associate professor and academic director at New York University’s Preston Robert Tisch Institute for Global Sport said. “Men’s sports get better time slots in broadcasting. There’s just so many things that we still are not equal on. I think women's sports is still thought of as 'less than' because, unfortunately, we continue to compare the two.”
Many hope that the win for women’s soccer will start a movement to equalize the differences between men and women’s sports. Players in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBA) still make a fraction of what their male counterparts make. Female professional athletes across all sports do not receive the same respect or resources that male athletes get. In the conversation of gender equality, female athletes, especially female athletes of color, must be included.