Further Review

Steve Hummer's Further Review blog offers comments, asides and quick hits on the state of sports

Next goal for U.S. women's soccer: Equality

Women’s sport (and really, the whole blessed workplace landscape) has just found the perfect cause.

Forget the “equal pay for equal work” battle cry that has yet to be fully realized.

How about equal pay for far superior work?

The U.S. women’s national soccer team is the reigning World Cup and Olympic champion. It is a leading ambassador for growing the game in a country where football is defined quite differently. It is an important economic partner with the U.S. Soccer Federation, a real driving force.

The U.S. men’s team, well, bless its heart, it tries hard. It is the Fredo in this family. On the world stage, it is the perpetual warm-up act, the small plate entrée on a menu of far more substantial dishes. The men finished 11th in the most recent World Cup.

In framing Wednesday’s complaint charging U.S. Soccer with wage discrimination, the semi-famous goaltender Hope Solo put it rather bluntly: “We are the best in the world, have three World Cup championships, four Olympic championships and the (men) get paid more to just show up than we get paid to win major championships.”

According to the complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – and signed by five leading lights of the game (including Carli Lloyd, FIFA player of the year in 2015) – the women are consistently paid less in bonuses, appearance fees and per diems. They likewise are short-changed in facilities and travel amenities.

One example cited in the New York Times story: A men’s player received $5,000 for a loss in an exhibition match but as much as $17,625 for a victory against a heavyweight opponent. For a similar match, a woman receives $1,350, but only in the event of a victory.

If the claim by the groups lawyer, Jeffrey Kessler that women earn between 28 and 62 percent less than the men – according to the importance of the match – then there are truly grievous inequities in play.

Such serious inequities, in fact, that who could blame the women, who are operating under an expired collective bargaining agreement, if they took their ball and sat out these next Olympics? No one has mentioned the word, “strike” at this point, but the action certainly would seem justified if nothing changes.

The “beautiful game” has provided a beautiful case. None of the other distractions about comparative viewership and economic impact that so often sidetrack the arguments for equality in women’s sports apply here. Who, after all, holds the highest-ever television ratings for a soccer game in the U.S.? The U.S. women, in their World Cup winning performance against Japan last year.

Equal pay, hell.

You’ve heard the argument whenever a Title IX issue arises or some women’s pro circuit laments its lack of support: If they want equal treatment, then they should produce equally at the gate and on the field. Maybe it is time the women get to use that performance-based cudgel now.

It’s not why aren’t the U.S. women’s national soccer players making the same as the men? Rather, it’s why aren’t they making considerably more?

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About the Author

Steve Hummer writes sports features for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He covers a wide range of sports and topics.