Paid to Play? Still Not Enough Isa Caputo

Why are men paid more than women for doing the same things? At least in sports, some say it is because of the revenue they bring in, or the viewership is greater amongst male athletes than female athletes. If someone gives you this as an excuse, they aren’t being entirely truthful.

We hold our athletes to a very high standard in this country. They are seen as role models by many. For some reason, we seem to take our female athletes for granted more than our male athletes. Confused? So am I.

Wage gap in America has been a popular topic of conversation in many different fields, especially in the corporate world. In athletics, it isn’t talked about enough. Even after Title IX, female athletes still don’t get the wages or treatment that males do.

As recently as last week, female athletes, especially U.S. Women’s National Teams, have been negotiating with their respective federations for better conditions and equal pay. For almost a year, the U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team has continued the fight for equitable pay. On March 15, the team finally stood in solidarity and all 23 players decided to boycott the IIHF World Championships, which are being held on home ice in Plymouth, MI (Chicago Tribune).

This boycott would have been a real embarrassment for USA hockey, especially since the U.S. is hosting the games. USA Hockey intended to field a team by recruiting girls from D1 and D3 colleges. It’s disappointing that they planned to send a team of inexperienced girls to play the best teams in the world in order to win a negotiating point. When those young girls were asked to play, they all refused knowing that the women players boycotting were fighting not just for their own team, but all future generations of women’s hockey.

USA Hockey and the National Team finally agreed to terms of a deal, and the boycott was therefore avoided. “It's going to be a turning point for women's hockey in the U.S.,” says Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, a star forward for the National Team (Chicago Tribune).

Hockey isn’t the only sport where women are treated as inferior athletes to the men’s team. Soccer has been a big perpetrator of unequal pay and conditions. In the 2014 Women’s World Cup, the games were played on a turf field, a fake grass that makes players more prone to injury. In the Men’s World Cup, games are played on grass fields, which is safer for the athletes. It is sexist that FIFA, the soccer federation that hosts the World Cup, forces women to play on more dangerous conditions (Time). What is being gained by this? Absolutely nothing. There is no reason for putting women in more danger.

There is also a wide gap between male and female athletes in soccer when it comes to money. It is required that the National Teams play at least 20 friendlies, or games against other countries that don’t count, before any major competition. The women’s team does make a salary of $72,000 regardless of wins and loses, but the men’s team would make more money for losing all 20 games than the women’s team would for winning all 20 games.

“The numbers speak for themselves. We are the best in the world, have three World Cup championships, four Olympic championships, and the [men] get paid more to just show up than we get paid to win major championships,” Hope Solo, goalie for the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, said about the wage gap (Newsweek).

What Solo said is completely true. When the women’s team won the World Cup in 2015, they only received $2 million dollars, while the German men’s team received $35 million dollars for winning the World Cup in 2014. That is nearly 18 times more money for the men’s team than for the women’s team for winning their respective tournaments (Newsweek).

Contrary to popular belief that women's sports do not bring in the viewership and resulting revenue. In July 2015, the Women’s World Cup final brought in 25.4 million viewers, the most of any soccer match in women’s or men’s soccer in the US. Additionally, it brought in $16 million in revenue (Newsweek).

In soccer specifically, the U.S. Soccer Federation is a non-profit organization, so why would they make their wage decision based on revenue and not on performance?

There is no valid reason that female athletes should be paid any less for winning than their male counterparts. Women put in just as much work as men with worse conditions and less pay, and they still are able to win championships and gold medals. I think all of that hard work needs to be rewarded.

On the other hand, tennis is one of the few sports that has done a good job of trying to make pay and conditions equal between its male and female athletes. For instance, the prize money that is given out to the winner of each grand-slam event is equal between men and women. Tennis is also the only sport that has paid their female athletes enough to get them on Forbes's "World's 100 Highest Paid Athletes" (Newsweek).

Despite being the most equitable sport in terms of prize money, female tennis players still are paid less per victory than men are. For example, Novak Djokovic earned $37,000 more than Serena Williams per victory even though they each won 3 grand-slams (Newsweek).

Serena Williams playing for Team USA (Black Press USA).

I strongly believe that there is no excuse for women to be treated or paid any less than men. They put in the same amount of work, travel the same distance, and play the same sport. There is an easy solution to this problem. Pay female athletes based on their performance. If a female team wins a championship and the male teams loses their championship, women should be paid more. If the female team loses, and the male team wins, the male team should be paid more. If they both win, they should be paid an equal amount. It is absolutely ridiculous that they aren’t paid the same, and it needs to change now.

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