We need to talk about the gender pay gap in sports
This past 4th of July weekend was seriously amazing for American women in sports. Why? Because the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team earned themselves their third World Cup title after defeating Japan. The match averaged 25.4 million viewers and totally demolished U.S. soccer-watching records (for men and women), according to the Huffington Post. But unfortunately, despite all this awesome news, we have a serious, serious problem. And though it has to do with numbers, it doesn’t have to do with spectators . . . it has to do with cash.
Atlas, a data website, has just unveiled some truly disturbing facts about the minimum salary for each of the country’s biggest sports — and the number for professional women’s soccer players is shocking. As you’d probably expected, professional female soccer players make far, far less than their male counterparts. But what you wouldn’t expect: The minimum annual salary for pro female soccer players is below the Federal poverty line at $6,842, while pro male soccer players make about nine times that much at $60,000. Yes, seriously.
This isn’t just a problem in the United States. As Cosmopolitan points out, the shockingly low minimum salary seems to be a constant throughout women’s soccer. Take for example Megan Rapinoe, who left the U.S. team to play professionally in France. . . where she made only $14,000.
“Rapinoe’s move was part of concern before the Women’s World Cup that the low salaries of NWSL would dissuade players from playing in the league and gaining experience, which would in turn hurt the United States’ performance in the World Cup,” Cosmopolitan‘s Sam Fortier writes. “Even though the U.S. won the World Cup handily, it’s a valid concern, as Rapinoe’s exit makes clear.”
In summary, “first division women’s soccer players are making 98.6% less than professional soccer’s male cohort,” according to a February Fusion article. Another way to look at it: the highest paid soccer player in the world as of March of this year is Lionel Messi, according to Business Insider; he made $71 million last year. The highest paid female soccer player? Marta Vieira at $400,000 in 2014, according to The Richest.
“It’s actually pathetic when I think about what we make,” Kate Deines, who played for Seattle Reign FC for the first two seasons of the NWSL, told NBC Sports. Deine’s low-income forced her to live in a five-bedroom house with five other soccer players. “It definitely feels like an extension of college life, and it is way less glamorous than college,” she said.
“We certainly don’t play soccer because we make a lot of money or because it’s glamorous,” Nikki Marshall, who played for the Under-20 Women’s World Cup, told NBC Sports. “We do it because we absolutely love it. I think I just got to the point where it wasn’t worth the sacrifice for me anymore.” Marshall retired at age 26, less than a year after she received her first call-up to the senior national team.
Why the massive discrepancy between female athletes and male athletes? How can this seriously be considered OK? Business Insider‘s Shane Ferro claims that the problem is with funding. “People should be asking why fans and sponsors are less interested in supporting women’s sports — and this is what they should be outraged about,” he writes. “. . . The one answer that doesn’t hold up is that men’s sports are somehow inherently more interesting to watch than women’s. They are certainly not 40 times more interesting to watch.”
It’s amazing that last weekend’s match received such high viewership. But we cannot let this be the only part of the conversation. We can only hope that the NWSL’s large audience this year will inspire rectification of this unbelievable gender discrepancy in female athlete’s pay.