In today’s day and age, we have seen so many various strides, efforts changes towards becoming more tolerant and accepting of others in terms of sexuality, racial identification, gender, religion and many other fields. Keeping this fact in mind, it is hard to believe that in the 21st century within the realm of the work place it is still common practice for both women and people of the LGBT community to be discriminated against and find themselves either making lower wages or even worse completely barred from jobs. These two facts do not only pertain to your average American citizen however, it has also infected the realm of sports as well. You see the NFL and other sports leagues coming out screaming and claiming their support of equality for all athletes however within the actual leagues themselves we see that discrimination still rears its ugly head and moreover is still prevalent despite the public stance claiming equality.
From the early beginnings of society and civilization, it was always thought that a woman’s domain should be the household, and her influence should deal with keeping up the home and raising the children while the man does what is considered the “real work” of finding a job and providing for the family. This idea, also known as the cult of domesticity or cult of true womanhood, was a system of values that prevailed in the United States in the past but still seems to be one that tries to govern how a woman is viewed within society. Today, we have seen many women who have challenged the ideas of domesticity and have shown that they are able to not only keep a home but also provide for themselves acquiring professions in the form of doctors, lawyers, etc. However what about the female athlete? The prevailing idea is that sports is a system that is founded on the idea of meritocracy, a philosophy holding that power should be vested in individuals almost exclusively based on ability and talent. We have seen many excellent female athletes, some of whom even outshine males within the same sport but despite this fact they are still not treated equally to their male counterparts.
To visualize this fact, lets take a look at one of the biggest forms of discrimination, (gender discrimination—lower wages) and some of the figures that make this evident. The average player, in the United States TOP, (note the emphasis on top) women’s league, the National Woman’s Soccer League (NWSL), is paid between $6000 and $30,000 compared to the top men’s league, Major League Soccer (MLS) who pays their athletes a MINIMUM of $50,000. There are clear implications of discrimination here, a woman playing the same sport of soccer can be one of the best in the league however her maximum income is still less than the minimum income of her male counterparts. This is clearly a spit in the face of equality, considering the fact that it was the U.S Women’s National team who actually won the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup while simultaneously becoming the first three time FIFA Women’s World Cup winners. This is not the case for soccer alone however; in sports across the board the highest paid athletes are almost always male. In 2015, only two women made Forbes’ list of “100 highest paid athletes,” Maria Sharapova ($29.7 million) and Serena Williams ($24.6 million) both of whom dominate the sport of tennis and could give any male tennis player a run for their money, in my opinion. But despite this, both made less than half of what the highest paid male tennis player, Roger Federer, made in 2015 ($67 million). How can sports claim their support of equality when there is so much discrimination within their leagues?
The lack of equality however does not only affect women as there are gay athletes who also receive discrimination is subtle forms. Despite the progress we have seen in people becoming more tolerant of the LGBT community the realm of sports is still however one of the most homophobic areas. We have seen the NFL commissioner come out in support of embracing an athlete that identifies with the LGBT community however; many football players still remain in the closet about their sexual orientation. But if sports are so pro-gay and pro-LGBT why exactly is this this case? If the officials of these leagues are publicly giving off the idea of acceptance of the LGBT community then why would these athletes feel like they would still have to hide a big part of who they are? The answer here, in my opinion, is to protect their livelihood are careers.
Lets look at Jason Collins’ experience, for example. While I am not an individual that followed his career closely, I am aware of the longevity that he once had in the NBA due to his talent, skill and ability. He was an athlete that played on several NBA teams, was noted for his ability as a defensive player and one that his teammates could definitely rely on. Despite all of his success as an athlete, ever since he came out of the closet and revealed his sexuality, it seems that all of his talent and skill has been forgotten and now he is just that “gay athlete”. He has not had any real time out on the court since his coming out, and this is where the discrimination comes in. Did he all of a sudden lose any of his talent due to the fact that he revealed gay? The same can be said about Michael Sam, another athlete who revealed that he was indeed gay. Since he publicly announced his sexuality, he was picked up by a team, but then cut, picked up again by another team just to be cut again. Since being cut a second time, he has not had any real opportunities to get back onto the field. Now I’m not saying that he was cut explicitly because he was gay but there has been cases of average-ability athletes being given several opportunities to make a career for themselves that in my opinion has not been done for either Collins or Sam.
After everything that has been discussed, can it be unequivocally said, without a doubt, that there is equality within sports? Given the discrimination seen in terms of the gender pay-gap as well as blacklisting gay athletes I highly doubt it.