The Unsolved and Controversial Issues of Gender Inequality in Sports

By Kate Liming
Jun. 02, 2016

Sports have changed throughout the history of the world and those changes have also altered the way we look at things. There have been many issues and controversies involving sports, especially those concerning gender inequality. The difference between a man and a woman is a single X and Y chromosome; why should that determine the difference in pay between men and women, not just in sports but in all walks of life? People usually think that an athlete is an athlete and therefore he or she makes the same amount of money, but that is not the case. Just as women in traditional businesses make 78 cents for every dollar a man makes, the same applies to female athletes. Not only is the pay between female and male athletes outrageous, but so are the playing conditions that female athletes endure.

This past summer, the 2015 Women’s World Cup was played in Canada where the top 24 ranked countries in women’s soccer faced each other for one month, all competing to win a World Cup. It was especially important for the US Women’s National Team, whose Cup dreams were crushed in the final in 2011 in their loss against Japan. But just four years later, the US Women’s National Team overcame that defeat by growing stronger as a team and ranking #2 in the world of women’s soccer. They knew it was their time to bring the World Cup back home to America after sixteen long years. (1999 was the last time they won the World Cup, which was played at the Rose Bowl, defeating China and gaining their second World Cup and the second star on their jerseys.) The US beat Japan in this last World Cup Final by 5-2, with a record viewership of over 24 million Americans. The game had more viewership than any World Cup Final, either male and female, or any soccer game televised in America, any NBA Final, or any March Madness Final. It was a fantastic and jaw-dropping game as the US put in three goals in just sixteen minutes, and Carli Lloyd, one of the top players on the team, made history in a World Cup Final for both men and women by getting a hat trick, which is three goals by one player in a game. It might seem to viewers that the women would make millions and millions of dollars for this amazing win of the World Cup, however, their winning pay is almost a joke compared to the earnings in the Men’s World Cup last year in Rio. The Men’s German National Team, which won last year’s World Cup, received $35 million for winning while the US Men’s National Team was paid $8 million for losing in round 16. These are some of the questions I was wondering after the US women won the World Cup, “But what about the US Women’s National Team? They must have made about the same as the German men’s team for winning the World Cup, right? And certainly way more than the US men because the men lost early on.” It turns out that the US Women’s National Team who, remember, not only won the World Cup but also had more viewership than any men or female World Cup Final, only won $2 million. That’s right, the US Men’s team who lost early on in last year’s World Cup made $6 million more than the women this year who actually won. The money that was spent on making the 2015 Women’s World Cup happen was $15 million compared to the 2014 Men’s World Cup, which was $576 million, nearly 40 times more. The National Women’s Soccer League in America has salary ranges of anywhere from $6,000 to $30,000, which makes it difficult for the players to live in the city that they play for. The Men’s Soccer League has a yearly minimum salary of $50,000 per player.

Not only is the pay a huge gap between the men and women in FIFA soccer but the conditions also make for a stark comparison. The women had to play on artificial turf in Canada while the men have played on real grass for every World Cup since the 1930s. Last October, Abby Wambach from the US Women’s National Team launched a lawsuit on behalf of the entire FIFA organization for discriminating against female players. Her lawsuit was supported by other female soccer players from the US, Brazil, Germany and Spain and by male soccer players as well from the US. USA Today Sports, stated in an article, “CSA has argued there is no proven risk to the players by using the FIFA-approved artificial turf fields. Alex Morgan, who was involved in the lawsuit, told USA TODAY Sports she got involved because of health reasons.”

"Not only are they long lasting injuries, but there are long-term effects of playing on turf," Morgan said. "The achiness, taking longer to recover than on natural grass, the tendons and ligaments are, for me at least, I feel more sore after turf. It takes longer to recover from a turf field than natural grass." FIFA ignored the lawsuits and they were dropped in January. However, just recently, the Australian Women’s National Team was supposed to play two international friendly games with the US women on September 17th and 20th but backed out in protest of equal pay compared to the Australian Men’s National Team. According to Forbes, “While the Matildas – ninth FIFA’s world ranking – made an impressive run to the 2015 World Cup quarterfinals, it is reported that the players earned $500 AUD in match fees, which is a fraction of the $7,500 AUD the men’s national team, Socceroos, earned for each of their group stage losses. Moving forward, the Matildas want an increase in their yearly salary from $21,000 AUD ($14,475 USD) to $40,000 AUD ($28,000 USD), plus health and safety benefits.”

Viewership has become another issue involving women’s sports, which could be a reason why they aren’t getting paid as much. Men’s sports are watched so much more than women’s sports and the only time a women’s sport is watched is if it’s a championship game. Sepp Blatter, the FIFA President made an insulting comment when asked how the women’s game of soccer can grow in viewership? His answer was, “Let the women play in more feminine clothes, like they do in volleyball,” Blatter said in 2004. “They could, for example, have tighter shorts. Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men, such as playing with a lighter ball. That decision was taken to create a more female aesthetic, so why not do it in fashion?”

Soccer isn’t the only sport that has a huge pay gap between female and male players. Basketball is another huge issue in regard to pay but no one is fixing it. The WNBA was introduced in 1996, much longer after the NBA was established in 1946, but the females play just as hard as the men and have grown immensely in talent throughout the years, but their pay has not. Tamika Catchings, one of the most outstanding players in the WNBA who was awarded the MVP title in 2011, has been named Defensive Player of the Year for five years, has won a WNBA championship title, and has been to the Summer Olympics the last three times, winning gold in all three. Just like Catchings, Kevin Garnett has been named MVP once, a Defensive Player of the Year, has won a NBA championship title, and has won an Olympic gold medal. Garnett makes $12 million every year not including endorsements. Garnett’s added endorsements to his $12 million salary makes it $21 million while Tamika Catchings makes only $105,000 a year with no endorsements. An individual WNBA salary as of 2013 averaged $37,950 and the entire salary for the team was $913,000. Unsurprisingly, the minimum NBA player salary was $490,180 and the entire team salary was $58.7 million. Catchings claims that if the WNBA were to make more money in 50 years than what she makes now, she will be happy because she will feel as if she had done something for the pay to go up. She says that money is not what makes her happy. The game of basketball makes her happy but she knows that it is still unfair for female athletes to be treated so poorly and has been behind the whole issue for a while.

So what sports between male and female have equal pay? The only sport that has allowed equal pay and is a notable exception in the pay gap of women’s sports is tennis. Ever since Billie Jean King started the Women’s Tennis Association in the early 70s, all four Grand Slam tournaments have allowed equal prize money to both male and female tennis players since 2007. However, this is just one sport. One sport out of many sports that allow equal pay and it will be a while until all sports get some more equality but for now, all we can do as a society is stand behind all female athletes and all women in general for equal pay and equal treatment.

Cited Works:

1.Maggie Mertens, “Why Don’t We Treat Women Athletes Better?”, Refinery. com, July 10, 2015. http://www.refinery29.com/2015/07/90542/women-athletes-pay-gap

2.Mary Pilon, “The World Cup pay gap”, Politico.com, July 6, 2015. http://www.politico.eu/article/world-cup-women-pay-gap-gender-equality/

3.David Woods, “Equal Pay? Not on the basketball court”, USA Today Sports.com, May 19, 2012. http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/basketball/story/2012-05-19/nba-wnba-basketball-salary-disparity/55079608/1

4.Ben Watanabe, “Sepp Blatter, FIFA Corruption and Women’s World Cup: It’s Complicated”, NESN.com, May 27, 2015. http://nesn.com/2015/05/sepp-blatter-fifa-corruption-and-womens-world-cup-its-complicated/