Is U.S. Women’s Soccer Getting Shortchanged?

The U.S. Women’s World Cup team is back from Canada with victory in its players’ pockets, but not much else, to judge from media reports now unfolding. The question just above led a CBS Evening News story tonight about the gross income inequality between male and female professional soccer players—and in today’s battle between the sexes, few issues are more demagogued or more inflame the adversarial passions than inequality between the sexes. Indeed, we’re told that star goalie Hope Solo took a picture of one fan’s sign calling for equal pay for women athletes. Say no more.

But more was said, and the facts speak volumes. It seems that the women’s team will split $2 million for their victory whereas the winner of last year’s Men’s World Cup team, Germany, was awarded $35 million. The prizes, however, are based on revenue, says FIFA, which runs the World Cups, and the facts here are stark:

This year’s figures have not been released, but four years ago the Women’s World Cup brought in almost $73 million. The 2010 Men’s World Cup in South Africa made almost $4 billion. Those players got $348 million, or 9 percent of the total revenue. The women’s team got a higher percentage with 13 percent, but the bottom line was still much less, $10 million.

But don’t let those facts get in the way of sound egalitarian reasoning. We get that from Deborah Slaner Larkin with the National Women’s Sports Foundation:

We shouldn’t keep deciding who’s more important, our sons or our daughters, our husbands or our wives. People should be treated equally. We need to have some more male allies who will say this is not acceptable.

Not acceptable? If so, then what’s to be done? It’s unclear since we learn here that two women’s soccer leagues have already failed in the U.S. and the current one, the National Women’s Soccer League, averages only about 4,400 spectators a game. If you think this a tempest in a teapot, think again. It’s a microcosm, with a thousand and one more complex variations, of the debate that lies ahead in the political season that’s already under way.

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