The Runner Sports

USWNT Force Issues Of Gender Equality Into National Spotlight

Picture this scenario, there are two salesmen at a company, both are paid a salary based on the amount of revenue they generate for the company.  The first salesman brings in one-hundred thousand dollars worth of new contracts while the second only fifty thousand dollars.  Despite the earning difference, the second salesman will be compensated four times as much for the work done than the first salesman.

This is essentially the argument lobbied by five members of the United States Women’s soccer team and the most prominent members I might add.  These five players, Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd, Becky Sauerbrunn, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe have filed a wage-discrimination action against the U.S. Soccer Federation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, finally putting a major face to the nation on an issue reaching both inside and outside of sports.

You could drown in the figures and different methods of compensation for both teams, with these methods ranging from friendly wins, World Cup wins, appearances, and many other factors.  So I won’t bore you with those details, just know that these five women are saying that they are being paid less than the men’s team, while earning more.

The first argument that must be addressed is “the Men have so much more national interest so logically, they would be paid more.”  While on a league level this is very much true, at a national level interest is proven to be in the Women’s court.  This point is illustrated by the fact that during the women’s run to the World Cup title they smashed television ratings records, including over twenty million viewers for the final.  To say, oh those are good numbers for soccer but not on a wide scale, consider that the ratings for the final were easily comparable to those from NBA Finals and MLB World Series games.

To cap off the World Cup winning effort, the USWNT went on an extremely profitable “victory tour” that saw a seemingly endless stream of friendly matches played across the nation.

These facts are the primary reason the huge disparity between the men and women’s team in both earnings and revenue for this year exists.  A typical, non-World Cup year is different and USSF has made it clear that the men out earn the women over the course of a four-year World Cup cycle but in general, the United States women aren’t getting a fair deal.

Regardless of if this suit comes to any positive legal conclusion, Peter Romer-Friedman, the deputy director of litigation for the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, said to the New York Times; “By speaking up publicly, the players are saying, ‘It’s important for the public to know that we’ve filed this suit’.  Frankly, as a civil rights lawyer, it is important for them to speak out because it has an educational effect.”

I have not seen at this time any indication by legal experts if this legal suit will affect anything, but because the terms of payment had already been bargained by the union and the World Cup payments are mandated by FIFA, how much can be done?

That is likely why Romer-Friedman made the comments on the suit’s purpose more about education than personal gain by the women and indeed, the educational efforts and national exposure has been enormous. Not often is women’s soccer the topic on national news outlets that have nothing to do with sports, but that was the case over the last few days.  I awoke to CNN covering the story and it is easy to picture this story as a discussion point around the dinner table.

If you were touched by the plight of the United States women, you might be asking what can be done.  To that, I’d give the simple answer of go out and watch the domestic league games.  The suit conveniently falls but weeks before the NWSL is set to kick off.  With ten clubs across the United States, there are plenty of opportunities to go out and buy a ticket.  Despite the recent buzz from the World Cup win last year, the average attendance is still relatively low and with the low attendance, pitiful salaries for the players.

Possibly one of the reasons for the compensation disparity is that the USSF is financially propping up the NWSL as the league is still young and not yet viable on its own.  Going out and purchasing tickets, jerseys, and concessions will help not just the prominent USWNT players, but also those not on national teams.  According to an article on Equalizersoccer.com, the maximum NWSL salary was just $37,800 and the minimum being $6,842 last year.  I encourage all fans of soccer to give the league a look and not just to attend but to watch.  Every game is broadcasted via YouTube and many of the players are very engaging on social media.

If the ease of access doesn’t convince you to give the league a go, all non-college players who participate on the USWNT are “encouraged” to play in the domestic league.  This means that Alex Morgan of Orlando City will be battling Julie Johnston of the Chicago Red Stars.  Many of the stars from around the globe also ply their trade in NWSL so many of the bigger, better-funded clubs are virtual all-star teams composed of international talent.

Ultimately, this suit will do little by itself to combat the issue of gender equality, but the five brave members of the USWNT have brought to the forefront of conversation a very important topic.  A human being, regardless of gender, deserves to be given every opportunity to receive compensation in line to the value they bring to their organization.

John Harbeck

Ohio sports and all things soccer.If you like my writing follow me @JHarbeck5 on twitter

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