Women in Sports Are Getting Their Financial Butts Kicked

The U.S. Women's National Team won the FIFA Women's World Cup and received the first parade in New York City's "Canyon of Heroes" that's ever been thrown for a women's sports team. But ticker tape is no substitute for equal pay. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Soccer)

It’s another historic day in the land. The South Carolina legislature voted to take down the Confederate flag outside its state house, and it came down last Friday. It’s a cause for celebration, a win. But now the cha cha will begin. One step forward, two steps back, as people’s desperate rear guard reaction to change and a perceived threat will prompt them to act out and sully this victory.

But I don’t want to talk about that. I want to talk about money. Specifically, I want to talk about pay inequality in sports, as pernicious an issue as racism, it is perhaps even slower to change. Worse, pay inequity is not specific to one area — it’s almost universal to organizations, geography and industry.

For instance, look at sports. The World Cup is over, and the U.S. Women’s team handily beat Japan this year 5-2, but their total payout this year was $2 million compared with the total for the men’s World Cup winners, Germany, last year of $35 million. What could reasonably account for such a gargantuan difference?

FIFA needs to get its act together. One article I read said “the Women’s World Cup payout is less than the reported $24 million to $35 million FIFA spent on its self-aggrandizing fiction film, ‘United Passions.’”

Women’s soccer doesn’t fare much better. That same article said that each team in the National Women’s Soccer League operates with a salary cap of around $200,000. The MLS salary cap was $3.1 million in 2014. That’s not just ridiculous and insulting. It’s pathetic.

I know there are mitigating factors that affect pay, like the number of fans who follow the sport, advertising, etc. But if the advertising, for instance, was more equitable, maybe there would be more fans, which would in turn bring more advertising and sponsorships. Surely there’s a female David Beckham — someone who can do for the sport what Serena Williams and peers have done for women’s tennis — who we can put out front and center to give some legs (pardon the pun) to the women’s soccer league?

Let’s get these endorsements in check, spread ‘em out. The number of female sports fans seems to be increasing, and the significant purchasing power of female consumers is certainly not an issue. But someone has to lead the way to show marketers what they’re missing, and logically these leagues should be at the forefront of change.

This whole prize money thing is a disgrace. It’s not like it’s cheaper for a woman to train to be a top athlete than it is for a man. So, why did the German men take home $35 million when they won the World Cup in Brazil last year? The paycheck for the American women was $2 million.

Man. It is way too hard to be a woman. Pay us!


Editor's note: An earlier version incorrectly stated who voted to take the Confederate flag down in front of South Carolina's state house. The South Carolina state legislature voted for its removal. This blog was updated July 15, 2015.