Sports are full of close calls.
A last-second shot may bounce off the rim. Or a putt hangs on the lip of the cup. And every pro football game has several plays that the referee has to review in instant replays.
But whether players on the U.S. women’s soccer team should be paid more than they are now does not appear to be a close call.
Last week, five members of the U.S. women’s team filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). That’s the federal agency that makes sure that people are treated fairly at work.
The women claimed that the players on the U.S. men’s soccer team were paid much more money than the women were. They also said they did the same work as the men — played in international soccer matches — and so should be paid the same amount.
Some figures from a recent New York Post newspaper article seem to back up some of the women’s claims. The numbers revealed that the U.S. men received five times as much money as the women for making the national team. The men also received more than seven times as much as the women for qualifying for the World Cup.
What athletes deserve to be paid is complicated. Their salary can depend on a lot of things, including the popularity of their sport.
For example, the men in the National Basketball Association (NBA) make much more money than the women in the WNBA. However, men’s basketball is much more popular than the women’s game.
You might not think that’s fair, but the NBA gets much bigger crowds and television audiences. Those bigger audiences mean more money in ticket sales and advertising payments. It’s the same with men’s and women’s golf.
But the U.S. women’s soccer team is very popular. The women’s 2015 World Cup finals match against Japan was the most-watched soccer match — men’s or women’s — ever shown on a U.S. television network. It attracted 25.4 million viewers. That was more than the NBA finals or the U.S. men’s soccer match against Portugal (18.2 million).
In addition, reports from the U.S. Soccer Federation estimate that the women’s team will make more than $5 million for the federation in 2017 while the men’s team will lose money.
One more thing: The U.S. women’s team has won a lot more matches than the men’s team. Since 1991, the women’s team has won three World Cups and four Olympic gold medals. The men’s team has advanced as far as the World Cup quarterfinals only once in the past 50 years.
I know the men have tough competition playing the Messis and Ronaldos of the world, but still.
The EEOC will investigate the U.S. women’s complaint. Maybe the U.S. Soccer Federation can explain why it pays the men so much more.
I doubt it. I don’t think this one is a close call.
Bowen writes the sports opinion column for KidsPost. He is the author of 21 sports books for kids.