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Women Athletes Earn Less than Men, but Who’s Surprised?

It is no secret that there is still inequality in the world of sports.

Even Ultimate Frisbee, an activity widely regarded as the most inclusive, gives us insight on how women athletes are alienated. Not a single woman made a roster in the sport until Jesse Shofner signed with the Nashville Nightwatch for the 2017 season.

While certainly still developing, the AUDL’s inherent issues (which led to an ongoing player boycott) points to a larger problem in media: inherent bias towards male dominated sports.

While men like Andy Murray regularly make a point to stand up for women athlete’s recognition, supposed differences between women’s and men’s sports have led to less professional opportunities for women, a massive pay gap, and reduced media coverage compared to thirty years ago.

Take, for example, the US National Soccer Teams. In the 2014 World Cup, the US Men’s team squeaked by the group stage on goal differential before falling to Belgium in the Round of 16. Four years later, the team failed to qualify for an expanded World Cup tournament.

By comparison, the US Women’s team brought home their third world title in 24 years and maintained a standard of excellence, which has culminated to a total of seven CONCACAF Championships, five Olympic medals, and recognition as one of the best national soccer teams in the world.

The biggest difference? While the women have had considerably more success, the average male US Soccer player could earn $100,000 per year while never winning a game, whereas the average woman player would need to win every match in order to make $99,000.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop with soccer. No professional leagues exist with women athletes in football, hockey, or baseball, and the WNBA players make an average of $75,000 a season compared to the NBA average of $7.5M.

The issue even finds its way into the college ranks. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) paid out $1.56M to the men’s champion, Villanova, while rewarding nothing to the women’s champion, UConn.

All of these issues are exacerbated when both viewership and fan involvement are taken into account. The WNBA reached 7,000 spectators 5 seasons sooner than the fledgling NBA, and FIFA’s bias towards men’s soccer limits the number of spectators women’s games can accommodate.

But throughout all this, there is a glimmer of hope. The 2015 Women’s World Cup Final between the US and Japan drew an estimated 6.5 million more television viewers than the 2014 Men’s Final.

This shows that the fan support for women’s sports is strong – team owners and leagues just need to get with the times and give women athletes the equality they deserve.

Featured Image by Tirachard Kumtanom from Pexels

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