Remember when the US Soccer Federation argued in court that its female athletes don’t deserve to be paid the same as men? Because the women aren’t as skilled? Yeah, you remember that rage-inducing statement. I know you do.
Well. Today it was brought to my attention that England’s national women’s soccer team is paid exactly the same as their national men’s team.
“The [Football Association] pays its women’s players exactly the same as their male counterparts for representing England, both in terms of match fees and match bonuses,” the Football Association said. According to The Guardian, football federations in Brazil, Australia, Norway, and New Zealand have all publicly committed to providing equal pay too.
So why can’t the great United States of American get on board?
(Side note – I’m Canadian, and as far as I know, the Canadian women’s soccer team isn’t paid the same as the men’s team either. Please correct me if I’m wrong! This video from Maclean’s magazine in 2018 features Diana Matheson discussing how female soccer players in her country do not play to make money. “[You play] because you [love] to play soccer, you [love] being around the team, and you [love] representing Canada.” And this article from CBC in 2016 says that it’s unclear whether our women are paid the same as our men, and that the Canadian Soccer Association claims there is no disparity in pay but wouldn’t provide details. So it’s not just the USA that still has to catch up here.)
One of the things mentioned in the Guardian article that caught my eye is how the FA’s representative mentioned that the women represent England. Representing your country at events and venues of serious magnitude – like the World Cup – is a huge responsibility. One that no one takes lightly, I hope. At least, no athlete should take lightly. Their behaviour, their dress, their demeanour, their dedication to the sport, all of these are seen and viewed through the lens of national identity. When Ryan Lochte made up his story about being robbed at gunpoint while in Rio for the 2016 Olympics, he most definitely embarrassed his country. He is not a good representation of the American people. And back in 1998 at the Nagano Winter Olympics, “unknown” players on the men’s hockey team trashed their accommodations in the Olympic village, causing $1,000 worth of damage. Again, these are not individuals who you want representing your country.
The USWNT though? They won the World Cup last year. They are active and engaged with their fans. They are strong women, physically and otherwise. They obviously give 100% at every game. Many of them are fighting for LGBTQIA+ rights and use their celebrity platforms to help promote this. As Liza Bar says for the Athletic Network, “[the USWNT are] from different races, sexualities, and backgrounds, yet they are a family. They are a shining example that it is possible to love each other even if they don’t look or act the same.”
These are, without a doubt, the kind of people Americans DO want to serve and speak for their country. So why can’t they be paid as if their flawless representation matters to the country they represent?
England, Brazil, Australia, Norway, and New Zealand all realize and appreciate their female athletes deserve to be paid properly as they represent their countries on the global soccer circuit. Step up, America. Step up.
For more thoughts and opinions from Melanie, check out her author page.
Image Source: AP Images