Photo Credit: The Boston Globe
It’s the same old story, just a different sport. In my article “Challenging the Status Quo,” I discuss the television coverage and pay gap between the WNBA and the NBA. In 2005, Venus Williams wrote a letter to the London Times fighting for pay equality at Wimbledon, the same effort she put forth as an 18 year old in 1998. “Venus VS.” – the espnW Nine for IX film directed by Ava Duvernay – documents Williams’ fight for pay equality that led to her becoming the first Wimbledon women’s champion to earn as much as the men’s singles winner (Roger Federer) in 2007. Just like the WNBA, the Women’s Tennis Association, Ladies Professional Golf Association – and even after winning three World Cups – the United States Women’s National Soccer team are still being cheated financially. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association only gave the United States team $2 million for winning the World Cup from a total cup purse of $15 million distributed to the women’s World Cup teams.
In comparison, 2014 World Cup champion Germany received $35 million from a total FIFA purse of $358 million distributed to men’s World Cup teams. The World Cup final between the U.S. and Japan garnered the largest audience ever (on Fox and Telemundo) for a televised soccer game in the U.S. at 26.7 million, and produced record ratings in Japan, Canada, France, England and China. Furthermore, the Nine for IX film “the 99ers” highlights how the U.S. women’s soccer team positively changed the face of women’s athletics. Sixteen years ago, women soccer players were able to draw a crowd of more than 90,000 fans at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., and about 40 million Americans watching on television.
There’s no doubt soccer has the leverage to bring in sponsorships and there’s a market for women, but for some reason it’s still tough for them to gain support. For example, even after many of the top players have been injured and signed a lawsuit against FIFA ,women soccer players are still lobbying to play on grass instead of artificial turf. However, FIFA is only marginalizing women’s soccer players internationally the same way the national leagues devalue their players at home. According to politico.com, many people are not aware that there’s a National Women’s Soccer League in the U.S. – largely due to the lack of print, television and radio coverage – and the women’s salaries reportedly range from $6,000 to $30,000. Each team has a salary cap of about $200,000 compared to a $3.1 million salary cap for Men’s League Soccer. Besides the WTA, broadcasters have marginalized women’s sports, resulting in less money being dispersed to players.
It’s sad to believe the same women who’ve dominated women’s soccer – never finishing worse than third in competition and consistently ranking at the top of the worldwide rankings – would be treated so poorly by their national association. On the other hand, for every dollar men make in corporate America, women only make 70 cents, so why should the sports industry be any different? To paraphrase three-time Academy Award Winning American Actress Meryl Streep, the quickest way to lose power is by thinking we don’t have any. Until more women in corporate America and female athletes and their fans fight for what they want – like Venus Williams did – nothing will change and they will continue to receive the status quo.