Discrimination on the basis of sex has been illegal since the 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed.
Yet somehow, in the world of sports, pay equity is almost nonexistent. Women’s National Basketball Association athletes make a fraction of what NBA male players are paid.
While the income gap has narrowed substantially in tennis, with major Grand Slam tournaments such as Wimbledon and the U.S. Open paying winners equal prize money, other major tennis events still perpetuate inequality. It took decades of pressure from star players like Venus Williams and Billie Jean King to reduce the disparities.
A federal judge ruled earlier this year against women soccer players who sued the United States Soccer Federation in 2016 over disparities between players on men’s and women’s teams, only upholding the claim for equal working conditions. While the five players who sued — Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn — argued that the prize money was substantially lower for the women’s team, the judge dismissed the case because the plaintiffs had earned more money than male players.
However, they only earned more because they had won more games; if both teams had won the same number of matches, the men’s team would have been paid substantially more. Team Captain Rapinoe — an outspoken progressive on many issues including Black Lives Matter — blasted the ruling, which the plaintiffs have appealed.
Now, in what the U.S. National Women’s Soccer Team Players Association initially tweeted was a “PR stunt,” the USSF stated that it “firmly believes that the best path forward for all involved, and for the future of the sport in the United States, is a single pay structure for both senior national teams.” The organization claims its latest contract offer to both the U.S. National Soccer Team Players Association — the union representing the men’s team — and the USNWSTPA establishes equal pay. (NPR, Sept. 15)
However, the USSF went on to state it will not agree to any collective bargaining agreement unless the issue of World Cup prize money is “sorted out.” Currently the international federation FIFA, which sponsors the World Cup, pays the winning men’s team over seven times what it pays the women’s team.
Morgan explained that, “we need to look line-by-line at what they’re actually providing, because if you have equal but it’s not even what we got before, or to the value that we are, then we still consider that to be not good enough.” (ESPN, Sept. 16)
Capitalists, including team owners, have always fought demands for equal pay. They make extra profit paying women and gender-oppressed workers — along with workers of color, LGBTQ2S+ workers and workers with disabilities — much less. But they are willing to cut the wages of higher paid white men and then hypocritically brag about their bogus commitment to equality.