Earlier this month, five of the athletes on the U.S. women’s national soccer team filed a “wage-discrimination action against the U.S. Soccer Federation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.”
According to ESPN, “despite the women’s team generating nearly $20 million more revenue last year than the U.S. men’s team, the women are paid about a quarter of what the men earn.”
To the athletes, the argument boils down to gender equality.
“Let’s be very clear; the fact that there is even a conversation that a man and a woman doing the same job at the same level could be paid differently is mind-blowing,” said Wittenberg women’s soccer Head Coach Matt Fannon. “Gender should have no relevance to salary.”
Still, Fannon offered some insight into why this pay gap might exist: “One complication is that in the past year – especially due to their World Cup success – the women’s team has generated more revenue than the men’s team,” Fannon explained. “However, over a four-year World Cup cycle, the men apparently generate almost double what the women do. Either way, according to some reports, the men’s players can earn as much as five times the pay of the women’s players for results in similar situational games (World Cup group stage victory, for instance).”
Nicole Karavakis, a sophomore and retired Wittenberg soccer athlete, and Michelle Brunswick, a junior athlete, both feel that this gap in pay between the women’s and men’s teams not only has an effect on them as collegiate athletes, but also on young girls aspiring to follow in the footsteps of Mia Hamm, Hope Solo and Alex Morgan.
“I feel that this issue reflects negatively on women’s soccer, because everything that young girls have been taught since Title IX has come out has been that you can do anything that a boy can do, or you have as much right to anything as a boy does,” Brunswick argued. “The revenue aspect is irrelevant – I feel like when discussing this issue – because it shouldn’t affect how much your club or team pays you based on the number of people that show up to a game.”
Karavakis added, “As someone who has played soccer since I was four years old, I can say I’ve always looked up to members of the women’s national team, whether that be Mia Hamm or Carli Lloyd. If the U.S. Soccer Federation fails to comply with their request of equality, girls may be discouraged to continue in playing sports, as they would be recognized as unimportant compared to their male counterparts.”
Many coaches share this concern; Fannon explained how his program strives “to instill a level of individual pride and empowerment” in the athletes. “The concept that one of our women may be paid less than a man for an equal job is unfathomable, and if this were something that ultimately affected anyone on our team, I would be furious,” he declared.
Yet Fannon still cautions jumping to conclusions in this very charged debate: “there are so many details we are not privy to, so it is difficult to form a clear stance, and we should be careful about taking sides without all the information.”