In July of 2015, a record breaking number od Americans turned on their television to watch the US Women’s Soccer team win their third World Cup title. They were in awe while watching legends like Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd dominate their competition. While there was much celebration
after their historic win, the performance of the players and nationalism weren’t the only things that had Americans talking. After winning the World Cup title, team USA was awarded $2 million dollars. You may think that this amount of money should not be complained about but compared to the $35 million that the men’s team earned, it is completely unacceptable. The men’s team even earned themselves $8 million for reaching the round of 16 while the women’s team received a fraction of their earnings for winning the World Cup championship. With attention drawing to the Women’s National team, the door has been opened to the question, why is there a pay gap in men’s and women’s sports? Thus opens up an even bigger question. Why is there a gender pay gap at all?
The issue has sparked such an outrage in such a short amount of time that even members of Congress have spoken out on the issue. Jackie Speier and Linda Sanchez have took a particular interest in the issue and along with many others, have come up with a resolution to provide equal pay for professional women’s soccer players. “Whenever there’s gender pay inequity I feel compelled to speak up about it,” Speier told ThinkProgress. “This is a glaring case and I think it outraged a lot of people in this country, men and women, for being fundamentally unfair.” According to Mary Jo Kane at the University of Minnesota, the obvious gap in pay between gender in the FIFA World Cup is part of a much bigger system of inequalities in the promotion as well as the development of all women’s sports. This issue is such an outrage for all people, not just women because everyone knows that it is so blatantly unfair that it cannot be ignored any longer.
The common argument for this type of case is that prize money and salaries for athletes are based off of the popularity of the sport and marketing. Some may say that men’s sports are more appealing to the general population than women’s sports, therefore they are more marketable. This is because for generations, men’s sports have been marketed and promoted all over the globe, making the teams more and more popular as time goes by and fans become attached to their favorite player or team. Women’s sports don’t have that luxury. You cant even compare how popular women’s sports would be compared to men’s if they were marketed the same way for the same amount of time. While men’s sports have received publicity for decades, women’s sports are just starting to gain attention by the media worldwide. The global coverage of women’s sports is a miniscule amount compared to the sports male counterpart. “For instance, a mere 2 percent of airtime on ESPN’s SportsCenter was devoted to women’s sports”. If the media is not giving women’s sports the media attention that they need to gain popularity, they will never be able to build the fan base that men’s sports currently have. With those factors in mind, it could makes sense that men’s soccer more profitable than the women’s game but it still doesn’t make it right and it also doesn’t justify how juristic the gap really is. Even though it could be justified, that wasn’t even the case when it came to the women’s World Cup. The tournament brought in a record breaking audience with more people tuning in to watch team USA win gold than this years NBA final, Stanley Cup and World Series. With these staggering numbers and the amount of revenue that FIFA made, there should be no reason for the women to earn a fraction of the winnings as the men’s team who came nowhere close to winning. Besides the gap in their earnings, the women’s soccer team faced other injustices during the FIFA World Cup. Despite complaints about pain and injury, all women’s teams were forced to compete the entire tournament on turf rather than grass. This is an issue that the men’s teams didn’t have to deal with. An athlete shouldn’t get paid more or treated better because they are a man or less if they are a woman. Especially if they aren’t given the same opportunities as men to prove their worth in the sports world because of gender stereotypes and the idea that the women’s game doesn’t have the same quality of play or entertainment as men. Recently one of the worlds most famous and most dominant soccer players Abby Wambach spoke out to ESPNw on the pay gap issue. She stated, the pay gap in soccer is “unfortunately something you have to accept on some level, but when you do win you then have the opportunity and the platform to start voicing your opinion about, hey you know what, this is a little too big of a pay gap.”
You can also cannot ignore the fact that gender norms are changing and more and more girls are deciding that they want to play sports more than ever before. “In the U.S., the number of girls participating in sports has increased every year for the past 25 years and 42 percent of collegiate athletes are now female.” Sexism in sports is something that has been engrained in our minds for as long as sports have been around. Sports have been promoted as masculine and tough, qualities that society thinks only men possess. It is hard for people to change their ideas of gender to stop viewing women as delicate and fragile and men as strong and tough. It is hard for people to watch women to participate in what they believe is a masculine activity because society has taught them that sports are for men. The masses will not give women the respect they deserve because it is hard for them to see a woman as dominant. Even if a woman does get media attention as an athlete, it is most likely based on the way that she looks rather than the quality of her play. While Carli Lloyd dominated in the World Cup becoming MVP of the tournament as well as scoring the game winning goal to win gold,
Alex Morgan was honored with the cover of the FIFA video game. Although she wasn’t the team’s standout player, she was often talked about because she was the most attractive, therefore becoming the most popular. If it was a different case with males, looks wouldn’t matter, layers would gain popularity based on their skill and charisma alone.
Although there have been strides towards improvement in the acceptance and treatment of female professional athletes, there is still a long way to go to change societal views and give them the respect they deserve. The gender pay gap in sports is completely unacceptable.