Patterico's Pontifications


On Equal Pay for U.S. Women Soccer Players

Filed under: General — JVW @ 4:21 pm

[guest post by JVW]

As we celebrate the victory of our United States Soccer Women’s National Team (USWNT), and their curb-stomping of every single Eurotrash nation who once thought they could colonize our lands (Did anyone else notice that we beat, in order: Spain, France, England, and the Netherlands? Ok, ok, we’re missing Russia.), talk has turned to the women’s demand for what in unhelpful shorthand is being referred to as “equal pay.” Because much of this debate seems to be arguing from premises that are not shared by each combatant, I thought it might be helpful to outline the two athlete compensation streams that are being discussed.

World Cup Revenue
Those who seek to dismiss the USWNT’s complaints out of hand are quick to point out the obvious fact that the revenue for the men’s World Cup dwarfs the revenue for the women’s event. Total revenues for the 2018 World Cup (for men) in Russia were estimated at $6 billion dollars, which includes event sponsorships, ticket sales, television rights, merchandising, and whatever else is sold under the auspices of FIFA, a corrupt international body of sleazy bankers, corrupt lawyers, and assorted louche princes and counts from defunct royal courts. The women’s event held the past several weeks in France, by contrast, is believed to have brought in $131 million, or about 2.2% of the haul of the men’s event. As such, the members of the French team which won the men’s title split $38 million in prize money, while the American women must make do with a pot of only $4 million, though it should be noted that the women share a much higher percentage of the total revenue than the men do. Short of socializing the funding for both events in order to even out the payoffs, I don’t see that there is a lot which can be done here.

National Team Pay
This is where the women’s team has their strongest argument that they are being treated unfairly. The USWNT is currently in mediation with U.S. Soccer, seeking to be paid stipends commensurate with the men’s team. They have also filed a discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and filed suit against U.S. Soccer in U.S. District Court in Central California. Additionally, former USWNT goalie Hope Solo has separately filed suit against U.S. Soccer, also alleging pay discrimination.

The women’s logic is understandable, and it is laid out in an informative article by Michael McCann, a lawyer who writes about legal issues for Sports Illustrated. First and foremost, they have clearly been more successful than the men in international competitions. Documents filed in support of their position show that between 2016 and 2018, the USWNT ticket sales exceeded the men’s team sales, albeit slightly, and with the women’s World Cup victory coupled with the failure of the men’s team to qualify for last summer’s tournament, this could be a year where women’s team merchandise outsells men’s team merchandise. Given the wokedy-woke attitude of corporate America these days, one would assume that sponsorships would at the very worst be even, with the marketability of the women’s team perhaps surpassing that of the men’s team.

So, the thinking goes, why not pay women’s team members a stipend equivalent to that of the men’s team? The last real piece of revenue that hasn’t yet been mentioned is television revenue, and because U.S. Soccer packages both teams together in network deals it is hard to determine which is the more valuable piece of the pie. Traditionally the men have had higher television ratings than the women, but again, the recent success of the USWNT coupled with the on-field egg-laying by the fellas might change the numbers there and bolster the argument for a more equitable division. Olympic sports such as swimming and track & field provide a uniform stipend system irrespective of sex, and in some sports it would seem that it is the men’s team members who are getting shafted while the more popular women’s team members get by. The easy thing to do here is to simply draw up a new deal that dictates the U.S. Soccer Women’s National Team members receive the same organizational pay that U.S. Soccer Men’s National Team members do, right? At least one Presidential candidate believes so:

But hold on; not so fast.

It turns out that the USWNT’s compensation was the product of a a collective bargaining agreement negotiated by their own player’s association with U.S. Soccer. The men’s and the women’s teams have separate player’s associations, and thus each squad reached a different sort of deal. The men’s team pay is highly dependent upon the number of games in which a player appears for the national team; a player who makes ten appearances in a year makes 25% more than a player who makes eight appearances, and a player who is injured and does not appear for the men’s national team gets nothing for a stipend. By contrast, all women’s players in the national team pool are guaranteed a flat sum, and in return they get a smaller per-game appearance fee. This way a player who appears in ten games makes only slightly more than the player who appears in eight games, but the player who sits out the year with an injury (or, perhaps, maternity leave) still makes something. If the women choose a model so that everyone gets at least a little something while the men choose a model where you are paid to play, I don’t see how that violates any equal pay principles.

(To be completely fair, though, I do think the USWNT has a legitimate point when they complain that the men’s team has better training facilities and more luxurious travel. This is something that U.S. Soccer ought to rectify and make equal.)

One would think that a good pro-labor Democrat like Kamala Harris might be a little bit skittish about demanding that a collective bargaining agreement which is in effect for another 30 months be tossed aside just because one side now has a stronger hand to play. Imagine if the USWNT had lost in the round of 16 to Spain, and had thus ignominiously bowed out of the tournament much earlier than expected. Would U.S. Soccer be justified in demanding that the collective bargaining agreement be reopened and the player’s compensation adjusted downward? It’s impossible to see Senator Harris supporting that kind of move, so why should she be in favor of abrogating the agreement now?

It would be a classy move — and justifiable too — if U.S. Soccer would address the disparities in training and travel between the two teams, and provide a better experience for the women players. If they want to reopen the collective bargaining agreement and revisit compensation then I have no problem with that, but I am against the idea that they should somehow be compelled to do so by outside activists. The men’s and women’s player associations could also explore the idea of merging into one organization which would ensure that both sides are treated equally, though the USWNT may find itself having to compromise here and there to keep the men aboard. Who knows, with the success of the women’s team perhaps it would be a smart move for the men to latch on for the ride. But simplistic chants of “equal pay” and turning this into yet another tiresome grudge in the grossly misleading “pay gap” argument will only serve the purposes of the professional activist crew.


34 Responses to “On Equal Pay for U.S. Women Soccer Players”

  1. And wouldn’t you know it, another fatuous politician is trying to force the issue. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) is sponsoring a bill that would prohibit any federal funding for the 2026 World Cup, which will be hosted by us along with Canada and Mexico in a North American conglomeration, unless pay parity is reached. Again, an understandable issue, but one that should be left up to negotiating between the interested parties, not heavy-handed government intervention.

    JVW (54fd0b)

  2. Pedantic aside
    Ok, ok, we’re missing Russia.)

    Kishnevi (2f2613)

  3. Great read. Thank you for the work. I saw that on average the female players made a lot less, but I didn’t see it it rolled up to total payroll. Did you happen to find that ?

    Time123 (d54166)

  4. I am sure that Manchin knows that bill will go nowhere…
    Besides, I seem to remember among the continual flow of Trumperies a threat by DJT to cut WC funding if Canada and Mexico were recalicrant on trade matters.

    Kishnevi (2f2613)

  5. Pedantic aside
    Ok, ok, we’re missing Russia.)

    Hey! We beat Sweden in the Group Stage! Damn, we really showed those Eurotrash, didn’t we?

    JVW (54fd0b)

  6. I have less problem with the women’s pay for the national team than I do for the men. The ladies are good, historically good, for a few decades, the men are…not. That the men had better representation during negotiations I have no doubt, they demanded the stars and got the moon, the USWNT demanded business class to Honolulu and settled for economy plus to Detroit.

    This is kind of like the Kevin Spacey caused controversy in the movie “All the money in the world”, when they had to reshoot to replace Spacey, Marky Mark got $1.5M for reshoot’s, Michelle Williams got scale, $80 a day. When they asked the Funky Bunch representatives why he got paid and she didn’t, “they asked” they originally responded, she just said yes. Of course the producers didn’t want to pay him, but that’s why you hire an agent, a good one.

    Same thing with athlete’s. When Ricky Williams was drafted #1 overall by the Saints, he signed for such a terrible deal, that after 4 years, he was the lowest paid 1st rounder out of that class and that included stinker’s like Akili Smith, Reggie McGrew, and Andy Katzenmoyer. Bad representation can impact career earnings, especially in sportsball/entertainment, but in the normal world as well.

    The USWNT has a moment now, time to renegotiate, as an elite athlete they have a very short window to get their’s, so, get theirs.

    Colonel Klink (Ret) (6e7a1c)

  7. Great read. Thank you for the work. I saw that on average the female players made a lot less, but I didn’t see it it rolled up to total payroll. Did you happen to find that ?

    The women’s stipend scheduled is buried in one of the links to my post, or perhaps within a link in one of my links. I didn’t see what the men’s per-game payment is, but I imagine it would be pretty easy to find. I didn’t include that stuff because I was already afraid that I was losing the post in an overload of details.

    JVW (54fd0b)

  8. Excellent post!

    Dave (55e817)

  9. “Short of socializing the funding for both events in order to even out the payoffs, I don’t see that there is a lot which can be done here.”

    When socialism is the answer to their argument, probably best to re-think it.

    harkin (58d012)

  10. Another weird thing about the women’s scale is that it depends on whether or not they are playing in the National Women’s Soccer League. They get less of a stipend if they play in NWSL, I guess because they have their NWSL salary to fall back upon. There is also some complicated formula where someone who plays overseas instead of for the NWSL gets less USWNT money than someone who plays here in the NWSL.

    I also saw a article in a British newspaper speculating whether Alex Morgan might become the first women’s player to receive a £1 million transfer fee to play for a European squad.

    JVW (54fd0b)

  11. Much appreciated, Dave.

    JVW (54fd0b)

  12. I’ve come around on this. The men and women should make the same: nothing.

    0$ for both.

    If they don’t want to represent their country and it’s all about the money, they can forgo all the endorsement $$, SI photo shoots and talk show appearances too — which I doubt they would. Call their bluff.

    Munroe (7380a7)

  13. 12. You always run that risk whenever something is made into an “equity” issue that wasn’t really that, to begin with. eg. Title IX.

    Gryph (08c844)

  14. Munroe (7380a7) — 7/9/2019 @ 5:00 pm

    Why stop there?

    Make them pay all of *us* for the privilege of wearing the colors!


    Dave (55e817)

  15. Some commenters here take themselves and others way too seriously.

    Munroe (969dd4)

  16. Pay equity in stipends makes sense, but the women will still be disadvantaged when it comes to bonuses. The total World Cup payout was $400,000 for the men, with the winner getting $38 million, and $30 million for the women, with USWNT getting only $4 mil for their win a few days earlier. The reality is that gate receipts and TV/radio contracts probably justify that differential, although the womens’ game has gained in popularity, which means more money downstream.
    Added to this is FIFA’s corruption in picking Qatar as a venue for the 2020 World Cup. Part of me wishes they would cancel Qatar.

    Paul Montagu (fc91e5)

  17. I kind of agree with Munroe. Women’s soccer, besides being a tautology (look up the word and then give it a think), is not any kind of thing to be taken seriously.

    nk (dbc370)

  18. Women’s soccer, besides being a tautology (look up the word and then give it a think). . .

    Oh you.

    My high school added soccer to the varsity sports offerings my senior year. Our team was horrible, I think they might have lost every single match, but they delighted in offending delicate sensibilities with their team cheer:

    Soccer, soccer, sock ‘er in the face!

    Today they would all be expelled for such nerve.

    JVW (54fd0b)

  19. The Greeks are pretty good at soccer, for such a small country. They won Euro 2004 – beat off most of Europe’s soccerelite to do it, too.

    Leviticus (a33dd8)

  20. I bet they were lining up for that last part, Leviticus… giggity…

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  21. You want equal pay? Enter the men’s tournament.

    Russ from Winterset (b3daaf)

  22. This is a really good post, JVW. I’m not particularly interested in soccer, women’s or men’s , or even the Rapinoe kerfuffle, but you’ve written an insightful and informative post that kept me engaged.

    Dana (bb0678)

  23. My closest analogy here would be like the best arena football team complaining that the worst NFL football team unfairly makes more money. The men’s game is faster, more physical, and more skilled. The competition is much, much better….and tougher. But the kicker is….as this article points out….this is what the USWNT chose….they chose not to take a pay-for-play deal like the men did and World Cup revenue is disproportionately slanted towards the men’s game….because that is where the bulk of the interest is. Look at the attendance draw of men’s MLS games versus the NWSL (where one team barely tops 1,000 fans per game). The women’s national team games are popular but that does not translate to every country and some incredible demand for advertising dollars and merchandise. If the women want more money (who doesn’t?) then parlay the current popularity into endorsements and appearances…..let the private sector speak. Complaining about the contract that you fairly negotiated….and hoping the public doesn’t look too closely at that….is a bit disingenuous. I do agree with JVW that facilities and travel perks should be very comparable….but even travel benefits should be looked at objectively….is there a pragmatic reason for the differential? There may very well be….

    I enjoy the women’s game….it’s slower but there is also less flopping and histrionics….there tends to be more scoring opportunities. But I’m not sold by the USWNT argument about discrimination….the Arizona Cardinals are still more interesting than the Albany Empire….

    AJ_Liberty (165d19)

  24. I just can’t wrap my head around the whole stoppage time thing. Either stop the clock, or don’t stop the clock, but the refs seem to just randomly add time to get what they feel 90 minutes of play in. Stop watches have a button to stop it, you could even have a signal from a ref.

    That, and the men’s flopping, flopping in any sport should be penalized with a lifetime ban, on the first offense. That’s the worst.

    Colonel Klink (Ret) (6e7a1c)

  25. Watching the wind blow patterns through a wheat field is worthy of a donation. Paying to watch soccer – hand me a loaded 45.

    mg (8cbc69)

  26. MSNBC
    Megan Rapinoe on how fans can support the fight for equal pay: Come to games, buy jerseys, become season ticket holders, tell your friends about it.
    __ _

    Sean The Producer

    So she’s saying it’s game attendance, merchandise and ticket sales that determine her paycheck… and not the players’ gender.
    Got it. 👍🏻
    __ _

    Is she saying let capitalism work?
    __ _

    She basically just said that pay is directly tied to attendance and revenue, which is EXACTLY what Trump said the other day and got roasted for. We’ve all gone mad. -VJ
    __ _

    Max Diesel
    Apparently someone finally explain the economics of sports to her.
    __ _

    Jerry Colon
    So… if you want more people to attend games and buy merchandise… is it a good idea to alienate half of your potential customers?


    harkin (58d012)

  27. I didn’t have time to look into this before to show evidence of what I’d be told, but the U17 team beat the USWMNT 8-2 and the US women called it demoralizing

    steveg (354706)

  28. I almost became interested in soccer at the last Women’s final. This one destroyed any such interest.

    Patricia (3363ec)

  29. Well heck, why didn’t you say so, in a scrimmage, 7 years ago. It’s not like most of these ladies were in middle school or high school. Such profundity, next you’ll tell me that the dream team of iMichael Jordan, Magic, et all lost to some college whippersnappers in a scrimmage. That must have made the Olympic gold pale in value.

    Colonel Klink (Ret) (6e7a1c)

  30. I forgot to add that “informal” scrimmages often find that the various WNT (in this instance Swedish… coached by a former US coach) asking that the boys U15, 16 17 sides play with one less defender and still getting beat 3-0

    steveg (354706)

  31. A lot of athletic talent on that team, but watching them in footage taken during that celebration parade reminded me of… of… well, no team I’d ever seen before. Only thing missing was some of that twerking.

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  32. Klink.
    You are full of crap

    Doesn’t matter how many years ago. Many of the current US women were on the team then and they did not and do not scrimmage other womens teams… they scrimmage boys teams and they usually lose.
    Why don’t you look it up and find a time the USWNT scrimmaged and beat a U17 team in recent history? Find me a time when they beat a good U16 side or anything better than an average U15 regional side
    Prove me wrong.

    UNC women’s coach won’t schedule scrimmages vs boys older than 14 because it demoralizes the women.
    Look it up.

    The USWNT is the very best womens team in the world. The USMNT U-15 squad would probably beat them 4 out of 5, with the 5 being that soccer game where one side dominates play, but the other side squeaks one in vs the run of play.

    You have to realize that the Netherlands were playing 3 women in the back that at 25 I could beat footrace with them running forward and I backwards. Without one of those lumbering, lead footed gals suddenly channeling her inner countryman Nigel de Jong
    Rapinoe wouldn’t have had that penalty kick and the game might have gone either way. A goal with 27 minutes to play meant the plodding, ponderous Dutch back line had to move forward and attack, and sure enough, 6 minutes later their back line got gashed.

    The USWNT wouldn’t beat Santa Barbara High School and they never beat the SB Soccer Club Boys U14, U15 0r 16 teams the years the SBSC won consecutive nationals titles, because the WNT chose to play the not even runner up La Jolla Nomads instead (the USWNT lost). They needed it to be close so they wouldn’t get “demoralized”

    I prefer to watch womens collegiate soccer over the mens collegiate game because the women play a more fundamentally sound game, relying less on athleticism

    steveg (354706)

  33. Those poor deluded girls, thinking they’re good. Don’t they know that twice a decade when they take off a practice and don’t win a not game, some fool on the internet will use that to say, see, girls are icky.

    Colonel Klink (Ret) (6e7a1c)

  34. Actor Liam Neeson has an interesting take on the pay gap… 35 second vid:

    Colonel Haiku (f2baf4)

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