Halloran: U.S. women’s soccer team equal pay issue a matter of respect


Sara Halloran, Columnist

Recently, five high-profile players on the United States Women’s National Team filed a federal wage complaint against their employer, U.S. Soccer. The document alleged the winners of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup had been compensated unfairly compared to their male counterparts. The women’s team’s struggle for six or seven figures may not seem relatable to the millions of women fighting for a living wage. However, the manner in which the USWNT has been treated, not only by U.S. Soccer, but by the many male soccer fans who have denounced their fight, is demonstrative of a pattern of disrespect for women’s accomplishments. Even at Northwestern, the gap in interest between men’s and women’s sports is apparent.

Like many Americans, I discovered women’s soccer at the Women’s World Cup last summer. I was wholly impressed by the skill and energy with which they played, and the charisma they radiated. Only twice — Landon Donovan’s goal against Algeria in 2010 and John Brooks’ winner against Ghana in 2014 — has the men’s team inspired in me the level of excitement I felt while watching the women’s final against Japan. I started following the National Women’s Soccer League , the women’s professional league in the U.S., which I hadn’t even known existed. Yet never in my year of watching women’s soccer have I seen from any U.S. teams the plodding, weak play that many male fans insist makes women’s soccer inferior. The truth — the horrible, horrible truth — is that women’s soccer is fun to watch.

And yet U.S. Soccer refuses to correctly market its world champions and their league. Many male soccer fans, including Donovan, have turned to the argument that the pay scale should reflect the revenue that the players bring in.

Despite U.S. Soccer’s best efforts, this line of reasoning fails. The women’s team is projected to bring in $5.2 million next year; the USMNT is expected to lose $1M. Additionally, interest in women’s soccer has started to spread. The gap in attendance numbers for friendlies between men’s and women’s has slimmed, and tickets for a June women’s game against World Cup Finals foes Japan sold out in 10 minutes.

Unfortunately, the gender disparity is not limited to U.S. Soccer. FIFA gave the USMNT $9 million after getting knocked out in the 2014 World Cup’s Round of 16, whereas the USWNT received $2 million for winning the entire World Cup. Other federations are even worse, providing salaries barely eclipsing minimum wage. As a result, women’s soccer worldwide is still underdeveloped: There are only about 20 teams that can keep a match with the USWNT competitive.

In fact, the issue transcends soccer, visible with the difference between NU’s men’s and women’s basketball teams. Our women’s team is just as good as our men’s — arguably, they’ve been better over the last few years. Still, attendance numbers between the two are nowhere near comparable, and the problem hasn’t been helped by NU’s reluctance to provide transport for students to weekday women’s games compared to men’s. Only when institutions learn to respect women’s sports will the public follow, and another step will be made towards annihilating sexism.

Sara Halloran is a Weinberg sophomore. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.