EDITORIAL: Equal pay for women athletes

York Dispatch Editorial Board
United States' Megan Rapinoe celebrates after scoring the opening goal from the penalty spot during the Women's World Cup final soccer match between US and The Netherlands at the Stade de Lyon in Decines, outside Lyon, France, Sunday, July 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

"USA, equal pay!"

The chant followed the U.S. Women's National Team during their ticker tape parade in New York on Wednesday.

The crowd voiced a call that should be echoed around the country: The U.S. women's soccer team deserves to be paid as much as, or even more than, the men's team.

Let's look at the stats:

On Sunday, the women's team won its fourth World Cup title, its second in a row. The team has won the last 12 games it played in World Cup action, a record. Its 13-0 victory over Thailand in group play was the highest scoring game in World Cup history. The 26 goals the team scored over the course of the World Cup tournament is the highest single-tournament score ever.

More:Americans down Netherlands, 2-0, to capture their fourth Women's World Cup championship

And that's not all. The women's team has won four gold medals and one silver at the Olympics since 1996. They are continuously ranked No. 1 in the world.

For the U.S. Men's National Team, the record is not so glowing. Its best record in the World Cup is third place, in 1930. It went to the round of 16 in 2010 and 2014, but didn't qualify for the tournament in 2018. At the Olympics, the men won both silver and bronze in 1904, and since 1992 the men's under-23 team has played at the Olympics four times, with a fourth place in 2000 as the top finish.

Granted, the men are playing against international teams with some of the most highly paid and experienced athletes in the world. Other nations are even more rabid about their version of football than the U.S. is about ours, and World Cup wins are the pinnacle of every fan's dreams. 

But the U.S. women dominate their sport internationally, and they are an inspiration for every little American girl who wants to become a professional athlete. 

And look at the revenue being generated. The Wall Street Journal reported that from 2016 to 2018, U.S. women's games generated about $50.8 million in revenue, while men's games brought in $49.9 million, according to NPR. The team's home jersey became the No. 1 selling soccer jersey ever this month, Nike said.

But a class-action lawsuit filed by the women's team in March says that the women are paid less than the men, have inferior working conditions and are not marketed as well as the men.

The collective bargaining agreements make direct comparisons difficult, especially since the women play more games than the men. But one part of the lawsuit states that the women's team received a bonus of $1.725 million for winning the World Cup in 2015 while the men's team received a bonus of $5.375 million after losing in the Round of 16 in 2014. 

The lawsuit states that if both teams played 20 international "friendlies" each year and won them all, the women would earn a maximum of $99,000 or $4,950 per game while a male player would get an average of $263,320 or $13,166 per game under their respective contract formulas. In that scenario, the women earn 38% of what the men do, an appalling result even in a country where women regularly earn 80 cents for every $1 men make.

Much of the fault is on FIFA, which is paying the USWNT a $4 million bonus for winning the World Cup versus the $38 million paid to France's national team when it won the men's World Cup last year.

But it's up to the U.S. Soccer Federation to close this gap. 

Women who are leading the world in a sport deserve to be rewarded for it. As the House Democratic Women's Caucus wrote to the federation president last week, "the message sent to women and girls is that their skills and accomplishments are of lesser value."

"All players, I'm saying every player at this World Cup, put on the most incredible show that you could ever ask for," team co-captain Megan Rapinoe said. "We can't do anything more to impress, to be better ambassadors, to take on more, to play better, to do anything. It's time to move that conversation forward to the next step."

As little girls — and boys too — around the country celebrate soccer goals with Rapinoe's iconic pose, arms stretched out to welcome the applause of fans, it's time for this pay gap to be closed. As the lawsuit moves into mediation, the federation needs to see what the women's team has done for its bottom line and for the sport in this country and treat the team with the respect they have earned, repeatedly, on the world stage.