Equity in American sports, a utopia?

Equity in American sports, a utopia?

Some say that the correct paragraph should not start with a question. But, how can you talk about a topic as sensitive as gender equality, when the one who writes it is a man?

Throughout the centuries, women have had to fight their way against the obstacles and prejudices in life. And of course, sport is no exception.

Which brings us to the issue of equal pay, an ever-current topic, and even more so after the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) recently announced identical contract proposals to its men’s and women’s soccer teams.

The offer, pending approval, presumably seeks to ensure that both groups remain among the highest paid. It would be something “fair”, taking into account that North American women, winners of four world championships and an equal number of Olympic golds, have performed better than their counterparts.

Be careful, make no mistake. The pay gap in sports is something that progresses over time. Let’s review their struggles, progress and what is missing.

Only one woman in the Forbes Top 25

The superstar of women’s tennis, the Japanese Naomi osaka, made $ 60 million in 12 months, according to the latest Forbes list. But only $ 5 million was for sports merits, as $ 55 million came through sponsorships.

Only Roger Federer, LeBron James and Tiger Woods generated more money in sponsorships than the Japanese.

In fact, the $ 55 million in endorsements is a global record for a female athlete, breaking her own mark from last year, about $ 37 million.

Prior to that, the also tennis player and now retired Maria Sharapova it held the record with $ 29.7 million in 2015.

The next woman on the list is Serena Williams, in position number 28, having entered $ 41.5 million, of which only $ 1.5 is in sports merits.

Salary disparity between WNBA and NBA

The six figures were a common thing in the world of basketball, except for women. However, that changed.

But, to give you an idea, the WNBA it celebrated its first season in 1997 thanks to the initiative of the late Commissioner David Stern. Under his command, the same NBA owned the first eight female franchises.

Then, independently owned organizations joined in and today there are 12 WNBA teams.

In 2020, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was announced between the players and the league, which will last eight years.

For the first time in the history of the competition, the best players will be able to win cash compensation of up to $ 500,000, which is more than triple the maximum compensation under the previous agreement. This will be reflected in 2027 in its entirety.

Meanwhile, the legendary Diana Taurasi and Sue bird They are in the select group that has a ‘supermax’ contract, of about $ 221,450 thousand in 2021. That’s a percentage of almost $ 7 thousand per month in the 32-game campaign.

A ‘supermax’ in the NBA is five years old and over $ 200 million. The percentage per game would be about $ 487 thousand. Revenues, number of games (82 vs. 32), fans paying tickets, buying merchandise and television contracts are very different. Hence the abyss of wages.

But the good thing for the WNBA is that, in addition, 53 percent of the total cash compensation, which consists of base salary, bonuses and awards, is also in the works. Average cash compensation for female players will exceed six figures, averaging nearly $ 130,000.

Before this agreement, some players had to go to Europe to play in order to win more.

The minimum wage for an NBA player with zero years of experience is $ 925,000, four times what top WNBA stars generate today.

Female boxers get by in MMA

Claressa shields (11-0, 2 KO’s), one of the greatest of all time – if not the most – after becoming the undisputed champion in two different divisions, is one of the most vocal athletes in terms of salary disparity.

The also Olympic medalist had to make the leap to mixed martial arts, while also continuing to box, in order to generate more income.

“There is an unfair disparity. There is no male boxer who has achieved what I have done and it is amazing how much less money I make,” Shields said in an interview with Good Morning America.

The 26-year-old American fighter now aspires in the Professional Fighters League (PFL) to compete for $ 1 million, a figure that has never been offered to her in women’s boxing.

For making history in 2020, according to The Washington Post, Shields was paid $ 300,000. Is it fair enough to be called the best of all time in women’s boxing?

The brazilian Amanda nunes, for example, undisputed (GOAT) of the female branch in UFC, he was guaranteed $ 500 thousand in his last bout.

That is why other famous boxers and with the label of legends such as the Puerto Rican Amanda serrano (43-1-1, 30 KO’s) also made the leap to MMA, while continuing to box at the same time (similar to her friend Shields) and defending her WBO and WBC belts.

Serrano is about to equal the knockout mark for a female fighter, still Hall of Famer Christy Martin, who when she started boxing under promoter Don King, was only making $ 5,000 per fight.

Women’s sport is gaining ground

There is increasing investment in women’s teams around the world. Yes, it is true that it is still a ‘tiny’ fraction compared to men’s outfits, but everything is on the rise.

In 2020, Olympique Lyonnais Groupe of France (owners of the men’s and women’s Lyon) acquired for $ 3.1 the Seattle Reign, one of the founding teams of the NWSL, and renamed it OL Reign.

Also, the Real Madrid bought the Madrid Tacón CD, to eventually turn it into its women’s team, which even classified it to the Champions League.

In the United States, in order to give a platform to its great stars who came out of college in volleyball, softball and lacrosse, the network of professional leagues was founded, Athletes Unlimited. All its competitions were a success and the federative entity has already announced that it will continue to incorporate other disciplines.

As we can see, progress has been made in women’s sport. However, its protagonists, the women themselves, continue to face other obstacles.

They train, wear out and dedicate the same, and then have to challenge taboos in our society.

But starting from the premise that pay equity in women’s sports is a utopia would be wrong. Because if it were so, we would not be seeing the changes that are reflected today.

They want, they can and they deserve it. Because that’s what they have worked for for decades. They no longer just want to be included or dropped, but not stopped.

Blessed are those who, in their constant struggle, ensure a better future for generations to come.

They don’t pretend to be the next Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt or Michael Jordan, they aspire to be the first Simone biles and company. The ones that break stereotypes.

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