The pay gap between male athletes and their female counterparts has come to the fore in recent weeks.
The BNP Paribas Tennis tournament director, Raymond Moore, last week resigned after a series of ignorant comments to the media. The comments were in reference to the prize money parity that exists in tennis.
Moore is quoted in the Independent as saying that women ought to “go down every night on (their) knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born”.
The South African went on to state that female players were “riding on the coattails of men’s tennis”.
The crux of the argument against parity is that women play three sets per match, while men play five. Novak Djokovic added further fuel to the proverbial fire by calling for more prize money for men. The world number 1 pointed to the greater popularity of men’s tennis, as well as the longer matches. The debate will, without doubt, rage on.
This week the focus switched to another sport. The announcement came on Thursday (via ESPN) that five prominent US Women’s soccer players were to bring a federal complaint against US Soccer.
World Cup winners and Olympic gold medallists Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd, Becky Sauerbrunn, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe filed the complaint, citing the wage discrimination suffered by female soccer players compared to their male peers.
U.S. Soccer, the sport’s governing body, pays its players who represent the national team in international competition. The men’s team is currently ranked 30th in the world, just six places above their lowest ever ranking. The side, now managed by Jürgen Klinsmann, has only exited the last two World Cups at the round of 16. Their success has been moderate at best.
Compare this to the women’s national team. The USWNT is currently ranked 1st in the world, their lowest ranking being that of 2nd. They have won four out of the past five Olympic gold medals, the exception being 2000 when they lost out to Norway in the final. They have won three World Cups with their worst finish being third place. While the men’s team have recently lost 2-0 to Guatamala (ranked 95th), the women are on a nine-game winning streak.
2015 saw the US national men’s team win just nine of their 18 games, while their female counterparts won the World Cup and lost just one match all season. According to the complaint filed, members of the US women’s team earned just a quarter of what the men’s team members earned in 2015.
Winning bonuses for the victorious women amounted to a cumulative $2 million. The U.S. men’s team pocketed $9million between them in 2014 following their exit at the round of 16. The 2015 Women’s World Cup win totalled to an increase of $20 million for U.S. Soccer.
The argument for better pay, however, does not just revolve around differences in performance. The discrepancies in pay are seen across the board in all forms of payment. Solo, Lloyd, Morgan, Rapinoe and Sauerbrunn claim that they have been fleeced in everything from appearance fees, to per diems, to bonuses.
According to ESPN, if the USWNT won each of the minimum 20 games they play each year and the men were to lose the same number, they would still earn more ($99,000 for women and $100,000 for men). On top of this, for each extra game they play each year above the 20-game minimum, USMNT players earn $5,000 while USWNT players receive nothing.
The complainants also argued that it was they who had become the principal revenue generator for U.S Soccer, citing the 2015 financial reports as proof.
While Djokovic points toward the greater popularity of men’s tennis than women’s, the same cannot be said for soccer. The 2015 World Cup final against Japan had a viewership of 25.4 million, a record for both the men’s and women’s national teams.
While the suit lodged with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission was undertaken by five prominent players, they say that they are acting on behalf of the entire team.
A statement released by the players read:
“Recently, it has become clear that the Federation has no intention of providing us equal pay for equal work…
“In early January, the Women’s National Team Players Association submitted a reasonable proposal for a new CBA that had equal pay for equal work as its guiding principle… U.S. Soccer responded by suing the players in an effort to keep in place the discriminatory and unfair treatment they have endured for years.”
Dáire O’Driscoll, Pundit Arena