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World Cup Win Doesn't Mask Funding Discrepancy For Women


There are victory tours and then there’s the whirlwind that the United States national women’s soccer team is on.

There was a parade down the Canyon of Heroes in midtown Manhattan last week followed by a mass appearance on the ESPY Awards. Their team co-captain Megan Rapinoe even showed up on Meet the Press, for goodness sake.

Yes, these are heady times for the group of women who conquered all comers during their month-long sojourn to France, making millions of admirers and a certain detractor at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Besides making new fans for their sport, the U.S. women picked up a myriad number of converts to the idea that men and women athletes, or at least national team soccer players, should receive the same salary for playing the same game.

Rapinoe and her teammates are likely to find their path to the World Cup to be far easier than getting equal pay.

Oh. It’s not as if they aren’t fighting for a worthy cause. There’s no rational reason that people who do the same thing and who have the same qualifications shouldn’t be paid the same, regardless of gender.

And the U.S. women’s team’s argument for equal pay is especially righteous when results are factored into the mix. The women just captured their second straight World Cup and their fourth overall, while the men’s team have been a perennial afterthought in global competitions.

Indeed, the women have channeled their indignation into a lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation, the governing body for the national teams, seeking not just equal pay, but similar working conditions, including training facilities and travel accommodations.

Internationally, the fiscal discrepancyis even worse, as FIFA, the global version of the U.S. Soccer Federation, allotted only $30 million for the pot of prize money for the women’s World Cup while providing about $400 million for last year’s men’s tournament.

The reasonable solution to this matter is for the U.S. and world organizations to pay the female players at the same rate as the male players, and to give them the same accommodations in travel and practice.

To do so, however, would run into a rather immutable truth: the men generate more revenue.

The men’s World Cup tournament drew $6 billion in revenues last year, while the recently completed women’s tournament will draw an estimated $131 million in receipts.

This is the conundrum that confronts every valiant attempt to bring female athletes into the same financial arena with men in sports that they each play. Over the weekend, Proctor and Gamble offered to chip in a half million dollars to the U.S. women, but the disparity of money is still there and is very real.

There are, to be sure, systemic explanations for the inequality, like the century plus head start men have over women in sanctioned athletic competition and the wide chasm in publicity between men and women who play.

But all those and other reasons mean is that Megan Rapinoe and her teammates will have to hand their disadvantage off to the next team down the line.

And that’s how I see it for this week.