Members of the U.S. women’s soccer team are using the slogan “Equal Play Equal Pay” to promote their wage fight. From left, Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd and Becky Sauerbrunn.CreditU.S.W.N.T. Players Association
“Everyone thinks women should be thrilled when we get crumbs, and I want women to have the cake, the icing and the cherry on top, too.”
— Billie Jean King, a tennis legend who led the charge for pay equality in her sport
Last week, all 28 players on the U.S. women’s national soccer team — the greatest women’s soccer team in the world — filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation, another move in its long-running battle for equality.
The athletes — including the stars Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd — are not just taking issue with their paychecks but also with where they play, how they travel to matches, and the medical treatment and coaching they receive, in what they called “institutionalized gender discrimination,” as my colleague Andy Das reported.
“We’ve always, dating back to forever, been a team that stood up for itself and fought hard for what it felt it deserved and tried to leave the game in a better place,” Rapinoe told The New York Times on Friday.
The women’s team holds a record three World Cup championships and four Olympic gold medals.
The issue of pay inequality in sports is of course not just soccer’s problem. Women across all sports are paid less, and many have fought for equity in salary and in prize money.
Here are other cases where pay inequality has been stark, compelling female athletes to speak out.
The U.S. Open. After long-fought battles by champions like Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, and Venus and Serena Williams, tennis has seen the most progress when it comes to pay equity. The first real appeal was made in 1970 by King, after a tournament in Italy for which she was paid just $600 for taking the women’s title. The men’s winner was awarded $3,500. King would later make this statement: “Everyone thinks women should be thrilled when we get crumbs, and I want women to have the cake, the icing and the cherry on top, too.”
In 1973, King threatened to sit out the U.S. Open unless the prize money was made equal. It worked. That year, the men’s and women’s champions were paid equally, and the U.S. Open has paid its winners equally since. Other Grand Slams, though, were slow to follow suit.
The Australian Open, and other Grand Slams. Prize money for the Australian Open had fluctuated for decades: In 1978, the men’s winner was paid about 585 percent more than the women’s, ESPN reported last year. And in the mid-1980s, the women’s winner was paid slightly more. By the mid-1990s, men were again paid more, prompting officials in the Women’s Tennis Association to push hard for equal pay. In 2001, the Australian Open agreed, and winners have been compensated equally since. The French Open came around in 2006, and then Wimbledon in 2007, a change led by Venus Williams.
Williams made a failed plea to Wimbledon’s governing body the night before she took the title in 2005. And in 2006, she wrote an op-ed in The Times of London titled “Wimbledon Has Sent Me a Message: I’m Only a Second Class Champion.” In 2007, she was awarded $1.4 million for her victory, the same as the men’s champion, Roger Federer. More recently, Novak Djokovic, currently the No. 1 men’s player in the world, suggested men deserve more money. “The stats are showing that we have much more spectators on the men’s tennis matches,” he said in 2016. “I think that’s one of the reasons why maybe we should get awarded more.”
The W.N.B.A. When compared with the N.B.A., athletes in the W.N.B.A. face extreme pay disparities — though, as is often pointed out, the N.B.A. is a multibillion dollar industry, while the W.N.B.A. is not. Nonetheless, in 2018, the W.N.B.A. set a salary cap of about $110,000, and rookies earned a minimum of $50,000. The minimum starting salary for N.B.A. players is about $580,000.
Last summer, A’ja Wilson, a star rookie who was the No. 1 overall W.N.B.A. draft pick in 2018, commented on LeBron James’s $154 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers. “Must be nice. We over here looking for an M but Lord, let me get back in my lane,” she tweeted.
Wilson earned about $53,000 that season. The top N.B.A. draft pick last year, Deandre Ayton, is expected to earn $6.8 million in his first year.
U.S.A. Hockey. In March 2017, the women’s national hockey team announced that it would boycott the coming world championship if U.S.A. Hockey did not increase the women’s wages. The risk paid off. Within days, the team and U.S.A. Hockey reached a four-year deal that gave the female players a $2,000 training stipend each month from the United States Olympic Committee and larger bonuses for winning medals. “We want to do the fair thing, and the right thing — not just for hockey but for all women,” Meghan Duggan, the team’s captain, said at the time.
What else is happening
Here are five articles from The Times you might have missed.
“My passion has been taken away.” A midwife who has delivered hundreds of babies for Mennonite women is facing felony charges for practicing without the proper license. The women are speaking publicly in her defense. [Read the story]
“Black audiences are what I’ve considered my base, and I will always make movies for that base.” The actress Regina Hall talks about the two Hollywoods, spirituality and success. [Read the story]
“Even Google can no longer hide its gender pay gap.” A new federal rule will force big companies to report pay scales according to gender and race. [Read the story]
“I didn’t mean to be brave.” When her husband was arrested on child pornography charges, Maddie Corman’s world fell apart. Then she made a play about it. [Read the story]
“It will be good not to be a black spot on the map any longer.” Mario Batali exits his restaurants a year after reports that he sexually assaulted and harassed women. [Read the story]
31 Days of Women: Alison Hargreaves, who conquered Everest like no woman had before
For Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting stories of trailblazing women you may not know, but should. We’ll bring you two women each week in this newsletter; head over to our Instagram for daily posts.
In 1995, Alison Hargreaves became the first woman to conquer Mount Everest alone, without bottled oxygen or the help of Sherpas. When she reached the peak, she sent a radio message to her son and daughter: “To Tom and Kate, my dear children, I am on the highest point of the world, and I love you dearly.”
Her homeland, Britain, rejoiced. But the excitement did not last long. Three months later, Hargreaves, 33, died descending from the summit of K2 in Pakistan. Read more about Alison Hargreaves here.
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