Inequality for women in the United States is something that has long been investigated and argued controversially. It’s one of those issues, like injustice for people of color, that we are making progress in but are still far from reaching true and fair balance. We often see this inequality in the workplace, where women are put into different work environments, with adjusted benefits and pay solely based on the gender factor.
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It is no different for professional athletes. Playing a sport professionally IS their job, and players still see the same unfair discrimination as seen in more corporate settings.
US women’s soccer has long been struggling in the fight to receive fair pay and equal benefits compared to the men, especially given that women’s soccer sees more success in their games, and attract a greater audience. How is it that women still are forced to play of turf fields, while the men almost always get grass fields? The women’s team plays the majority of their matches on turf, which has been shown to increase the risk of injuries and a force a more cautious style of play, while the men get the luxury most often playing on grass. Clearly, the success of the women’s team means nothing to the Football Association when it comes to ensuring their safety. The US men’s team still receives higher pay, even though US women often make it past group stages into the quarter, semi, and championship round, bringing home more victories and trophies.
They are overlooked in even the simplest matters, such as hotel and family accomodations. The issue is that US women’s soccer players are still being ill-treated when it’s clear they deserve more. They should be able to make a decent life for themselves with all the work they put in and the results they produce for our country. FIFA and the USSF need to provide the women’s team with more equitable benefits when it comes to equipment and field quality, and better salaries and bonuses for the achievements of the team.
Of course, the men’s team should be entitled to their bonuses when they perform well too, it’s just a fact that they tend to not do as well as women in the World Cup, Olympics, and other tournaments. Based on their higher number of viewers and numerous wins and championships they bring home for our country, and, there is no reason the women’s team should not be given fairer pay, the right to play in a safe environment, receive unbiased travel and living accommodations, and be seen as soccer players without a sexist bias.
The greatest portion of funding for the United States Soccer Federation comes from their broadcasting and sponsorship revenue, with their main partner being ESPN. The US women’s national team has established a growing audience which has certainly surpassed the viewership of the men’s games. According to a network ratings report, In 2011, the women’s world cup final ranked as the most-viewed soccer telecast (regardless of gender) ever on ESPN; the sixth-most viewed soccer telecast ever on a single network (also, regardless of gender); and the second-most viewed daytime program in the history of cable television.
It drew a 7.4 U.S. rating and 13.458 million viewers (Wile). The women’s team has broken records with ESPN as well as cable television in general. They are attracting a greater audience, and generating more budget money for the USSF. However, they are not getting the proper credit and fair rewards. The world cup isn’t the only tournament these women have taken over in ratings. The team put on an intense semi-final battle with Canada in the 2012 London olympics, ending the nail-biting game with a 4-3 victory. Reports state, In 2012, the U.S.-Canada women’s Olympic semifinal contributed the then- single most-viewed half-hour of the Olympics on NBCSN, breaking another record for broadcasters partnered with the USSF (Wile).
The men’s team fails to come close to the positive ratings and viewers the women have brought, and continue to be a weak source of income for the federation. The women continuously make themselves known, proving them worthy of getting compensation for their growing popularity. Men still make roughly 40% more than the women, regardless of how interested viewers are in their games, or what ratings they receive (Close). In addition, a budget report from the USSF shows the women’s team is projected to bring in more than $17 million in revenues, including a $5 million surplus for fiscal year 2017, nearly doubling their male counterparts, who are expected to run a deficit (Santhanam).
Bringing in more money than the men from sponsorships and viewers across multiple networks is a point worthy of consideration, but the USSF seems to overlook that, and refuses to give women the wages they so rightly deserve. The men’s team, which is actually LOSING money for the federation is somehow getting payed better than the women who are constantly producing more money for the budget. In some ways, they are just giving money to the men, since that’s where most of it goes. Given that the women’s games are more popular than the men’s through various statistics, it is only fair that they receive more of the money that they bring in for the federation.
A big part of the viewership the women see from their games comes from the fact that they make it further in events like the FIFA world cup, the Olympics, friendly matches, and various tournaments than the men do. Both the men and women’s team participate in the same number of friendly matches with other countries. Chaddha highlights how unimportant success is for these players, stating that The women would earn $99,000 each if they won 20 friendlies, the minimum number they are required to play in a year. But the men would likely earn $263,320 each for the same feat, and would get $100,000 even if they lost all 20 games (Chaddha). Players on the men’s team will still get a higher salary no matter how successful they are in their games. Aside from friendly matches, The women’s team has won three World Cups, with their most recent triumph occurring in 2015. The men’s team has yet to advance past the quarterfinals of a World Cup, let alone win the whole tournament (Chaddha).
These competitive women have a passion for soccer and love the game, but they are still ultimately playing to bring titles home for their country. Given their success in the world cup, one might believe that these women are getting paid a sufficient amount for their efforts to take home these trophies. However, Close points out that the men made 8 million dollars for getting 11th place in their world cup, while the women made one-fourth of that, 2 million, for hosting and placing in 1st for their world cup (Close). It’s hard to find justification for a championship team getting less pay than a team that fails to even reach the quarter-finals. The olympic games is the only instance in which the men and women received equal pay.
In this case, The Federation offered equal pay of $15,000 to each women’s and men’s national team member who qualified to play in the Olympics and another $15,000 to everyone who made the roster (Santhanam). While this is a step in the right direction, this is just a small pay increase the USSF granted to take some of the pressure off and temporarily satisfy the players. They stray away from larger issues involving the world cup and friendly matches these women partake in. They support their families and themselves with the salaries from matches that occur more often, and participation in said matches is not earning them the pay increase they want. The women’s team has proven their strengths on the field, qualifying and making it far in esteemed tournaments and winning matches, from which they should be receiving more money for their hard work and dedication.
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