Bless America’s premier women soccer players. They are showing the same grit off the field they have on it in winning spectacular honors and becoming the inspiration for their sisters of every age throughout the world.
As you may know, five of these World Cup champions from the U.S. national team have decided that they have had enough of second-class treatment from the U.S. Soccer Federation. They filed a complaint with the federal Office of Equal Employment Opportunity, which enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination. It’s about damn time, if you will forgive my French.
What they are demanding is the same pay that the USSF awards its male counterparts whose achievements haven’t even come close to those of the women’s team. And unlike other sports where the women are short-changed in favor of male athletes, there can be no excuses about lack of revenue. The World Cup women have produced almost $20 million more than the men and set TV records that exceed men by as much as 9 million viewers.
While the men’s national team has been losing money, the women complain that the USSF will receive almost $18 million in profit almost exclusively from the women’s success in the World Cup and a tour after. According to the Federation’s 2015 financial report, it spent $31 million on the men’s team in 2015 and a little over $10 million for the women. The USSF projects 2017 fiscal year profits at $5 million for the women while the men will lose $1 million.
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Still, the members of the women’s team received payment for international exhibition matches ranging from between 38 percent and 72 percent of what the men were paid. To add insult to injury, they weren’t paid as much as the men for food for domestic matches. The men, who obviously eat more as evidenced by their seeming lack of energy on the field, were provided $62.50 a day for meals while the women received $50.
Now that we’ve highlighted some of the specifics, does anyone believe that the USFF has a leg to stand on? If they do, they’re probably guilty of heading the ball too often when they were growing up. This is likely one of the most documented injustices in the ongoing squabble over the inferior treatment of women in athletics, not to mention men who produce huge revenues in football and basketball and are precluded by the NCAA from sharing in the largesse.
What the figures verify is what many of us have claimed for some time: Women’s soccer is far more fun to watch than the male variety and American men still have a way to go to catch up in international competition.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that I once co-coached a group of 12-year-old girls, who knew far more about the game than I and, therefore, were successful beyond my belief. Also, my daughter played from the time she was age 8 to 45 and was sidelined by a brain tumor.
Her experience included college and top amateur programs. My grandniece, meanwhile, was the outstanding starting “net minder” for Notre Dame’s national championship team several years ago. She opted out of a professional career.
All of this is beside the point, which is the incredible lack of fairness that has been shown by an insensitive governing body that has profited handsomely from women who have performed brilliantly in international competition. These women have set the bar enormously high in winning three World Cups and four Olympic titles with a never ending supply of super stars.
The evidence of discriminatory treatment by the USSF is so overwhelming that it is difficult to believe that the EEOC won’t act swiftly, if for no other reason than to show them the respect they deserve. Certainly, public opinion has to overwhelmingly favor righting the wrong. After all, TV viewership of last year’s women’s World Cup final averaged more than 25 million, making it the most watched soccer game in U.S. history.
All this probably should mitigate not only for equal pay for the women’s team, but perhaps higher than the men. If the USSF officials, who have been intransigent in meeting women’s demands so far, have any sense, they will head this off quickly with an equitable settlement, striking a blow for women athletes everywhere. Bless’em all.
Dan Thomasson is a former vice president of Scripps Howard Newspapers. Readers may send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org.