You would think the Americans would be happy after their magnificent win in the recent Women’s World Cup but instead they have been moaning at FIFA again (almost an American hobby these days). This time they are moaning at the prize money that the team won. The US women were awarded $2 million for the World Cup victory. The internet quickly recalled that Germany’s men won $35 million for their World cup win in Brazil last year and that the US men’s team (who lost in the last 16) earned $8 million for their efforts.
Cue the uproar in the US with cries of “sexism” filling the air. Even US politicians got involved with representatives Jackie Spier and Linda Sanchez – and 33 others – tabling a motion in the House of Representatives calling for equal pay for women and another politician – Carolyn Maloney – writing to FIFA asking them to end their pay policy which she called “discriminatory”. While at first glance this seems a good campaign the fact is it is full of xenophobia and hypocrisy.
For example the inequality is nothing new. in fact the winners of the Women’s World Cup won no prize money at all until 2007 – and far less in 2007 and 2011 as well. The difference of course is that the US did not win the last two World Cup before this year’s – Germany and Japan did – but who cares about unequal pay when it is foreigners who are the victims eh? The Americans also use the argument the Women’s World Cup Final won higher ratings than the men’s in the US than the men’s – conveniently ignoring the fact that in the rest of the world the men’s Final was far more popular. Americans have to learn that FIFA represents the whole world not just them.
Plus shouldn’t the US put its own house in order first? Gender inequality exists in the US domestic football Leagues. The minimum wage in the women’s pro League – the Women’s National Soccer League (NWSL) – is $6842 a year (the Federal poverty line is $11770).In contrast the minimum salary for the male equivalent – Major league Soccer (MLS) is $60000. Not much sign of equal pay there .
Of course the establishment sports in the US are far worse. Women only play grid iron football professionally in their underwear and they play softball not baseball – despite the efforts of a few pioneers like Justine Siegal. Basketball is the only one of the big three establishment sports in the US with a women’s pro League – the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and it won’t be a shock to learn that the minimum salary in the WNBA is $37950 compared to $ 507336 in the male equivalent – the National Basketball Association (NBA). Shouldn’t the Americans practice what they preach?
Ironically female footballers and basketball players from the US can make more money in the rest of the world they dislike so much. Diana Taurasi – one of the WNBA’s best – earns $1.5 million a year playing basketball professionally in Russia in the WNBA off season. This compares with the maximum WNBA salary of $107000. In a hilarious twist her Russian club has paid her more than her WNBA salary not to play in the WNBA at all in 2015. Where is the outcry of sexism here?
And in football too the same thing. In 2013 US star Megan Rapione spent a season in France’s Division 1 Feminine playing for Lyon – the club most of France’s magnificent women’s team play for. She earned $14000 a month – again far more than she could playing in the WNSL.(in 2013 the maximum salary in WNSL was said to be $30000 a year). Again it is funny how these sexist foreigners are able to pay women far more than the US does!
This is relevant because the US has to put its own house in order before lecturing the rest of the world. Tennis is the perfect example. US female tennis players from Billie Jean King to Venus Williams put pressure on Wimbledon and the French Open to pay women equally. But the Americans were able to do so from a position of moral strength since the US Open had introduced equal pay for women in 1973 – long before Wimbledon (2007) and the French Open (2006).Had the US Open not done so they would have been in a weaker position with regards to Wimbledon and the French Open.
And that is the moral for Americans lecturing the rest of the world about sexism in football. Get rid of it in your own backyard first. There is equal pay legislation in America. Why not insist – as with Title IX – that sport pays women equally? Women’s football is more popular in the US than France so it is nonsense that Rapione could earn more money in France than in the US. Women’s basketball is more popular in the US than Russia so it is nonsense that Taurasi earns more money in Russia than in the US. Until the US takes the lead in the fight for equal pay in sport by introducing it in their domestic Leagues they should not be surprised that when they campaign for equal pay for female footballers it will be a case of – to quote the title of an LP from the mighty UK indie group the Smiths – that “The World Won’t Listen”.