Just four months in, 2019 has already been a statement-making year for women in sports. Nike and Adidas, two of the world’s biggest sportswear companies, both launched commercials and campaigns celebrating female athletes. On March 8, 2019, the members of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) filed suit against the U.S. Soccer Federation alleging “institutionalized gender discrimination” throughout the organization. The suit alleges gender discrimination not just in pay, but also in the quality of their resources, from training facilities to medical treatment to coaching.While Title IX has become a buzzword for female equality and opportunity in sports, it only applies to educational institutions—professional sports are beyond its reach. Thus, the U.S. women’s soccer team has filed suit under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

 

The debate about whether equal pay should extend to professional sports is highly debated. Some believe it is necessary to fully honor the spirit of gender equality, as well as to continue to encourage women to pursue professional careers in sports. However, the most obvious counterargument that female professional athletes should not be paid the same as their male counterparts is that female professional teams bring in significantly less revenue. One article goes as far as to suggest that women actually make more than male athletes, based on the revenue they generate: “The men’s World Cup in Russia generated over $6 billion in revenue, with the participating teams sharing $400 million, less than 7% of revenue. Meanwhile, the Women’s World Cup is expected to earn $131 million for the full four-year cycle 2019-22 and dole out $30 million to the participating teams.” Thus, those opposed to equal pay in sports have a strong economic argument against it.

 

However, this does not always hold true. For example, in 2016 the USWNT actually brought in 20 million more in revenue than the men’s national team, while still being paid significantly less than the men’s team. Nevertheless, it is equally important to considered the nonmonetary consequences of the gender pay gap. Female athletes may be discouraged to pursue a professional career. Furthermore, it sends the wrong message by suggesting that sports are beyond the reach of gender equality. Women have been fighting for equal pay across industries for decades, and until the gap is closed, every industry should be subject to scrutiny when it comes to gender equality.

 

Courtney Tibbetts

 

 

 

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