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Women kick down equal-pay barrier

July 15, 2019 10:00 pm

As the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team marched down the Canyon of Heroes in New York City on Wednesday morning, they carried with them more than a trophy and the adulation of proud nation.

They brought confidence that a new state law would expand the requirement of equal pay for equal work.

Meaningful discussion about the disparity between the earnings of women and their male counterparts started strong and then deteriorated into the dreaded abstract phase about attendance, bonuses, endorsements and percentages. This is a place where the faint-hearted sports fan should not tread.

But before the parade, to his credit, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law legislation that expands equal pay laws to prohibit unequal pay on the basis of a protected class, as long as similar work is performed. A separate bill signed by Cuomo prohibits employers from asking prospective employees about their salary history.

Since the 1960s, the national fight for equal pay has walked hand-in-hand with the fight for equal rights. Yet today, despite the U.S. Women’s Team rock-solid grip on the 2019 World Cup, the battle rages on, with the same irrelevant arguments used to back it up.

But the facts about revenue put those arguments on the shelf.

Looking only at game revenue, the U.S. Soccer Federation’s own financial statements make clear that the women’s team has held its own in comparison to the men’s team since fiscal 2016, according to the Washington Post News Service.

In fiscal 2016 and 2017, the women’s team generated more cash than expenses, bringing in net revenue of $8 million in 2016 and $1 million in 2017, according to the report. By contrast, the men’s team posted net revenue of only $350,000 in fiscal 2015 and $2.7 million in fiscal 2016.

The most recent Men’s World Cup tournaments were played in 2014 and 2018. The last Women’s World Cup tournament, before this year’s, was played in 2015.

A recent editorial cartoon showing the legs of male soccer players grappling for the ball featured this caption: “Maybe men can’t play this game after all.” Meanwhile the men’s team that captured the Gold Cup at the same time as the U.S. women were dominating the sports world earned much more than the women’s team.

The male-dominated sports world is playing by different, self-serving rules that lock women out of the paydays they deserve. That cartoon caption recalls a similar sentiment expressed by the great Casey Stengel: “Can’t anybody here play this game?” When it comes to equal pay for women, the answer is a resounding no.