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U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Demands Equal Pay with Men’s Team

From its earliest days, women’s soccer didn’t get much respect from sport organizers

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US, Women, Soccer
United States' Megan Rapinoe, center, celebrates team's victory with teammates after the Women's World Cup final soccer match between US and The Netherlands. VOA

From its earliest days, women’s soccer didn’t get much respect from sport organizers.

Take the first World Cup in 1991, which wasn’t even called the “Women’s World Cup.” Sponsored by Mars Inc., the candy empire, the event was branded the “1st FIFA World Championship for Women’s Football for the M&Ms Cup.”

“They weren’t paid. They got $10 per diem a day. They were wearing hand-me-down uniforms. They weren’t staying in the best hotel rooms,” says Eileen Narcotta-Welp, an assistant professor of sport management at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. “They were literally eating Snickers and Pepsi to kind of fuel them through the 1991 game.”

The U.S. women won that tournament.

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FILE — Brandi Chastain celebrates her game-winning shootout kick for the U.S. team against China during the Women’s World Cup Final at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., July 10, 1999. VOA

Today, female soccer players get paid, but not enough, according to a lawsuit the U.S. women’s national soccer team (USWNT) filed against U.S. Soccer, their employer, alleging, “institutionalized gender discrimination.”

The United States Soccer Federation (USSF), also commonly referred to as U.S. Soccer, is the official governing body of the sport of soccer in the United States.

The lawsuit alleges that female players each earn a maximum of $99,000 for a season, while the men make an average of $263,320.

In the 28 years since that first World Cup win, the U.S. women’s team has been wildly successful, taking home four Women’s World Cups in all, including the 2019 title captured on Sunday in a 2-0 victory over The Netherlands, four Olympic gold medals, and eight CONCACAF Gold Cups.

 

The U.S. men haven’t fared as well, failing even to qualify for the most recent men’s World Cup in 2018. In fact, throughout the tournament’s 89-year history, the U.S. men have never earned a World Cup.

And yet, despite a lackluster record, the U.S. men are paid significantly more than the women.

For example, there was a $730,000 gender pay gap in 2019 U.S. World Cup bonuses, according to The Guardian.

The world champion women’s team members — who were honored Wednesday in a ticker-tape parade in New York City — will earn a maximum of $260,869 each after winning the World Cup and going on a victory tour. But if the U.S. men had accomplished the same feat, each of them would have earned more than $1.1 million.

 

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FILE — In this Oct. 10, 2017, photo, U.S. player Christian Pulisic, (10) is comforted by assistant coach Dave Sarachan after losing 2-1 against Trinidad and Tobago during a 2018 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Couva, Trinidad. VOA

Each member of the U.S. women’s national team earned $90,000 in bonuses for reaching the quarterfinals. But if they’d been eligible for the same bonuses as the U.S. men, they’d have raked in $550,000.

Total prize money for all teams involved in the 2018 men’s World Cup added up to $400 million, while the women’s prize money total for 2019 is $30 million.

In a court filing in response to the lawsuit, U.S. Soccer argued that the difference in pay between the men and women players is “based on differences in aggregate revenue generated by the different teams and/or any other factor other than sex.”

The compensation issue was on the minds of fans in the crowd at Wednesday’s parade salute to the women’s championship team.

 

“They’re doing the same hustle,” says Jaida Brown, a spectator. “They’re out there in the media and they’re inspiring people, and that’s what I feel like it’s all about, so they definitely should get equal pay as a man.”

“The whole team has been very powerful, and it’s just really empowered me,” says Yvonne Duck, another who turned out for the parade. “As a woman, I really feel strongly that they should be paid equally. It’s so unfair.”

David Gibbs attended the parade with his two daughters, including a 9-year-old who plays soccer. He coaches her team, in addition to coaching in the recreational soccer league he plays in.

“The whole issue of them getting equal pay is something that they do in the workplace,” Gibbs says. “Why not in the sports arena, as well?”

 

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United States’ Megan Rapinoe scores the opening goal from a penalty shot during the Women’s World Cup final soccer match on July 7, 2019. VOA

Since winning the World Cup in 2015, the U.S. women’s soccer games have earned more revenue than the men, according to The Wall Street Journal, which reported that the women generated $50.8 million in revenue between 2016 and 2018, while the men brought in $49.9 million.

The women’s earning power also extends to merchandise. Nike says the U.S. women’s soccer jersey is the top-selling soccer jersey, men’s or women’s, ever to be sold on Nike.com in one season.

Not only are the women paid less, but U.S. Soccer has used their success to try to jump-start interest in men’s soccer. In 1999, in the run-up to the Women’s World Cup, U.S. Soccer scheduled men’s games right before the women’s matches in hopes of drawing more attention to the men.

“They did this kind of combination package to get people to watch the men’s game because they knew that people were going to come and watch the women,” says Narcotta-Welp. “I think that the USSF has consistently used the women as a way to propel the men’s team into visibility — financial visibility, spectatorship visibility,” she says.

But no matter how well the U.S. women perform for the masculine-oriented FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, it’s all still about the men’s game. According to Narcotta-Welp, FIFA won’t take U.S. Soccer seriously until it fields a formidable men’s team that can compete on the international stage.

“You don’t see FIFA pressuring other federations to invest more in the women’s soccer game,” she says. “They probably look at the United States and say, ‘Well, you’re riding high. You’re tough. You don’t need to do as much because your women’s game is already there.’”

After the U.S. women secured their second consecutive World Cup victory in Lyon, France, last Sunday, fans in the grandstands chanted, “Equal pay, equal pay.”

The U.S. women’s team filed their lawsuit against U.S. Soccer in March, but agreed to focus on the World Cup first and then begin mediation on the issue of equal pay after the conclusion of the tournament.

For Narcotta-Welp, the general solution is simple, especially considering what the U.S. women’s soccer team has done for the sport.

“The women’s team in all of its iterations, literally has brought the game of soccer not only into conversations within American households, but this team is also the first to successfully market and sell soccer to a naive and seemingly indifferent American sports market,” she says. “At this moment, they are cultural icons and should be paid as such.” (VOA)

 

Next Story

Fatal Drug Overdoses Decline in US; First Drop in Two Decades

The trend was driven by a steep decline in deaths linked to prescription painkillers

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FILE - A billboard advertising treatment for opioid addiction stands in Dickson, Tenn., June 7, 2017. VOA

Fatal drug overdoses in the U.S. declined by 5.1 percent in 2018, according to preliminary official data released Wednesday, the first drop in two decades. The trend was driven by a steep decline in deaths linked to prescription painkillers.

“The latest provisional data on overdose deaths show that America’s united efforts to curb opioid use disorder and addiction are working,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said, though he cautioned the epidemic would not be stopped overnight.

The total number of estimated deaths dropped to 68,557 in 2018 against 72,224 the year before, according to the figures released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But that number is still far higher than the 16,849 overdose deaths in 1999, a figure that rose every year until 2017, with a particularly sharp increase seen from 2014 to 2017.

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Laura Levine prepares to dispense drugs at Vocal NY, an organization that works with addicts, where she is the health educator and coordinator for the opioid reversal drug Narcan, in the Brooklyn borough of New York, March 15, 2019. VOA

Deaths attributed to natural and semisynthetic opioids, such as morphine, codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone and oxymorphone, which are prescribed as painkillers, saw a drop from 14,926 to 12,757, or 14.5 percent.

That was the steepest drop for any category of drug, though deaths linked to synthetic opioids excluding methadone (drugs like tramadol and fentanyl) continued to rise sharply, while cocaine deaths also increased slightly.

Overprescription

The U.S. opioid epidemic is rooted in decades of overprescription of addictive painkillers. The crisis is responsible for about 400,000 deaths involving prescription or illicit opioids, including high-profile victims such as pop icon Prince and rocker Tom Petty.

But there are some signs the tide is beginning to turn.

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Bottles of several opioid based medication at a pharmacy in Portsmouth, Ohio, June 21, 2017. VOA

In recent months, federal and state authorities have taken on drug giants in court for allegedly bribing doctors to prescribe their medicines or for deceptive marketing that downplayed the risks of addiction.

ALSO READ: Researchers: The Herb kratom to Treat Pain and Opioid Addiction Not Safe for Use

The overall opioid prescribing rate peaked in 2012 at 81 prescriptions for every 100 Americans and had dropped to 58 by 2017, according to data suggesting that health care providers have become more cautious.

But the amount of opioids prescribed per person is still around three times higher than it was in 1999, according to the CDC, which uses a unit called morphine milligram equivalents (MME) to account for differences in drug type and strength. (VOA)