When five members of the U.S. women’s soccer team sued the U.S. Soccer Federation in April for equal pay – claiming they make a quarter of what the men make despite bringing in nearly $20 million more revenue than the men’s team – it highlighted the problem of gender inequality in athletics.
“Recently, it has become clear that the Federation has no intention of providing us equal pay for equal work,” player Megan Rapinoe said in a news release.
In many sports, the pay of female athletes continues to lag behind that of male athletes.
In professional soccer, a female player ranked at No. 25 made just under $340,000, while a male player with the same ranking earned approximately $580,000 more, according to the New York Times. Some male players made 10 times as much as their female counterparts.
In basketball, the minimum salary for a WNBA player in the 2015 season was $38,913, while the maximum salary was $109,500. NBA players in the 2015-2016 season have a minimum income of $525,093 and a maximum salary of $16.407 million, according to the Women’s Sports Foundation.
In all sports, even though the income gap is closing, male athletes continue to receive 10 percent more NCAA college athletic scholarship dollars in Division I and II, reports show.
Dom Amore, a sportswriter for the Hartford Courant, said this immense income gap still exists today because women’s sports do not generate as much revenue for their leagues, in comparison to their male counterparts.
“Some of the best players in the NBA, such as LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, are most responsible for generating billions of dollars for the league, so they are paid millions of dollars,” he said. “The WNBA does not make much revenue from TV, advertising or ticket sales, and therefore, the players are not paid the same as NBA players.”
Amore said the only way to close the pay gap is for women’s sports “to market themselves more aggressively because, again, sports is marketing. You have to convince people that the sport you are playing is interesting, entertaining, meaningful.
“You have to make it ‘must-see’ TV and ‘the hottest ticket in town.’ When you do that, as UConn basketball has done, the gap in pay starts to disappear.”
Courant Sports writer Desmond Conner said he believes that in pro basketball, men are paid more because “they draw in more fans.”
The best players “are promoted by the league as stars. But sports like college football, the NFL, Major League Baseball, all male sports, happen to be the most popular and biggest money makers, so some of that could play in here, too. Personally, I’d like to see the women basketball players paid a lot better than they are.”
He added that, “The NBA has more history” than the women’s league, which could be a factor in both popularity of players and pay.
The pay gap also extends to college coaching. According to the New York Times, the average salary for men’s basketball coaches in 2010 was $329,300, while the average women’s coach’s salary was $171,600. Over the next four years, ending in 2014, men’s coaches’ salaries rose 40 percent, while women’s salaries rose 28 percent, meaning the gap is getting wider.
Gabriel Smith is a student at Achievement First, Amistad High School in New Haven.