Evaluating Equal Pay for Female Athletes

     Philadelphia Flyers fans were quick to tear into Head Coach Dave Hakstol after he posted a tweet last week in support of the U.S. Women’s Hockey Team and their fight for equal pay. One fan replied that they “support [Hakstol’s] search for a college coaching job next year,” and another wrote slyly, “Less tweeting, more making the playoffs please.”

      However harsh these comments may be, they hold truth as Flyers fans see melt before them the hope of clinching the playoffs. All snide remarks aside, the U.S. Women’s Team and Hakstol have a point. Both men and women are working day in and day out to perfect their sport and to perform at their utmost level, but women are paid significantly less. This March in Philadelphia, the Women’s Team met USA Hockey officials, the sport’s national governing body from youth to professional levels, to discuss options for equal pay. Team captain Meghan Duggan says there were “great, productive discussions” during their meetings with USA Hockey last month, and she also states that their “goal remains to have the players we previously announced as the U.S. Women’s National Team be the group that represents our country at the upcoming 2017 IIHF Women’s World Championship.” However, the tournament ran from March 31 through April 7, and no resolution has been met. In more positive news, the team has won all four games, with three shutouts and an 11-0 blowout against Germany, going into the Friday final against Canada.

      While the hockey side of this dispute is ongoing, it is great to see Delaware Valley soccer star Carli Lloyd finally successful in her yearlong pursuit to reduce pay disparity for the Women’s National Team. An agreement was reached between the players and the U.S. Soccer Federation that will raise base pay and perks for the team. It will remain in effect until 2021, covering players for the 2019 World Cup to be held in France and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

      This change for the better is in response to extremely unequal pay and prize money in tournaments such as the World Cup. The prize for winning the Women’s World Cup in 2015 was $2 million, while the prize for losing in the first round of the 2014 Men’s World Cup was a whopping $8 million. As a result of the immense scale and success of men’s soccer, it is great to see the investment in the female side of the sport with the recent raise in pay for our Women’s National Team.

      While soccer has seen the beginnings of success in bridging the pay gap between men and women athletes, smaller sports with less viewership struggle to make similar changes. However, it is inexplicable that some of the men’s prize pool cannot be allocated toward the women’s, especially when many male athletes receive more in endorsements after the fact than women. For example, the men’s golf PGA Tour awarded $340 million to the champion in 2015, five times more than the women’s LPGA that year. In basketball the disparity is even larger: the maximum salary in the NBA is $16.407 million, and the WNBA maximum salary is capped at only $109,500, while the minimum is just over $39,000. Meanwhile, the four major tennis events have been offering equal pay since the U.S. Open took the first step and offered an equal payout in 1973. The other tournaments eventually followed suit in providing equal prize money, but now male tennis athletes feel women have used the men’s success to their favor. Novak Djokovic says of the subject: “We have much more spectators on the men’s tennis matches. I think that’s one of the reasons why maybe we should get awarded more.”

      However you may feel about the subject, we can all agree that our athletes, both men and women, spend each and every moment working toward physical perfection in their sports, and they should be rewarded for their dedication. Even if the pay is not equal, female professional athletes should not have to settle for entry-level wages when performing at such a high level. We must respect our athletes in the hope of inspiring the next generation to push the boundaries of our sports.

      Sources: CBS News, Philadelphia Inquirer, World Economic Forum

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