Vox, MSNBC, BuzzFeed, and Democratic National Committee staffs were seemingly in the crowd during the 2019 Women’s World Cup championship game in Paris. After the US Women’s National Team (USWNT) secured its fourth championship, the audience erupted in an “equal pay” chant as if thousands had just finished watching The View and had been programmed by Joy Behar to spout leftist tropes, even during a non-political affair.
But isn’t that what every sporting event involving women has devolved into these days? This year’s all-female World Cup was no exception. A relatively unknown pink-haired midfielder made her politics known to the world, and Twitterverse warriors complained about the Americans dominating a couple of their opponents. And, of course, there is the gender pay gap nonsense that has everyone in a tizzy.
So, what’s the story?
Sport Is a Business, You Sexist
A whole lot of people are outraged by the four-time US Women’s World Cup champions receiving a maximum of $200,000 each in prize money, in addition to other forms of remuneration. By contrast, every man on the US team is awarded a maximum of $1.14 million, despite a less-than-stellar record over the years. This is equal to about 18 cents on the dollar.
Many will cry discrimination. Let’s face it: The women’s soccer team has been far more successful on an international level than the men’s, winning the whole thing two consecutive times. By this measurement – skill – the USWNT should be making more than the USMNT. The one thing that everyone seems to forget is that soccer is still a business; it is not a charity or a group run by the characters in Desperate Housewives.
The US Soccer Federation (USSF) reported total operating revenue of $101.4 million. Half of this money was generated through sponsorships, including broadcast rights. Sponsorship revenues ballooned 50% between 2014 and 2015 when the USMNT played in a World Cup and another 25% between 2015 and 2016 when the USWMNT became world champions. Since then, sponsorship revenues have remained at around $46 million a year. This means that marketers see an opportunity to tap into a potentially lucrative soccer market, which is growing in North America. But both genders cannot play a game of one-upmanship because neither team can take credit. The USSF sells sponsorships as a bundle, so it can be difficult to determine which team is responsible for the dollars and cents.
Look at it this way: LeBron James is the greatest basketball player on the planet right now. He is earning millions of dollars a year. Is he doing this purely based on his ability? That’s a part of it; nobody wants to watch a short, pencil-armed guy miss a layup on every attempt. But a league’s or a team’s revenue is factored into the equation, too.
LBJ is the most marketable star in the NBA, meaning he puts butts in seats and eyes on the television product. The more people watch, the more brands will want to advertise, and the more the association and teams can charge advertisers. This leads to one conclusion: Players get paid; if they are not getting what they think they are worth, then they try out free agency. It is akin to any other labor market.
If there were not an NBA and LBJ was playing on some random basketball court in Biloxi, MS, then he would not be earning a maximum contract.
All About the Revenues, You Woman Hater
Examining just revenue over the years shows that men’s soccer has outdrawn and generated more than women. Admittedly, these numbers have started to reverse recently because people are bandwagon hoppers by nature and want to watch winners.
With ticket sales as a metric, women’s soccer is making more money than men’s soccer. Even after matches are produced, players are paid, and all other expenses are accounted for in recent years, the USWNT brings in at least $1 million in net revenues, compared to the men’s $350,000 minimum.
But the Women’s World Cup still paled in comparison to the men’s based on viewership. Globally, the women’s side is estimated to have been watched by about a billion people. The men? Half the planet.
The 2018 Men’s World Cup made more than $6 billion, the 2014 edition generated $4.4 billion, and the 2010 event pulled in just under $4 billion. The women’s versions typically earn FIFA between $70 million and $135 million – chicken feed – but this year’s spectacle could potentially double or triple.
Men, meanwhile, receive a single-digit percentage of the World Cup. Women get a double-digit slice of the pie. The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh also makes a great point about how women are demanding the same pay as the men:
“Megan Rapinoe, humble as always, will settle for just a meager quadrupling of their prize money. But $30 million quadrupled is $120 million. That would be close to 100% of their revenue. Again: The men only make 7%. Already, the women are earning around 20%. Indeed, if we want to be ‘fair’ and ‘equal,’ we must conclude that the women are overpaid. Or else the men are underpaid. Either way, on an international scale, if there is a gender pay gap, women are the beneficiaries of it.”
The USMNT players could complain, too, about their earnings. A goalie or a defender on the USWNT is under contract, earning a base salary and performance-based bonuses. Performers on the USMNT will make a living only on bonuses. Ultimately, men earn only when they play; women will earn whether they are playing or sitting.
Why? Female national soccer teams are generally paid differently than men because collective-bargaining agreements have concentrated on income and job security.
Markets Adapt, You Misogynist
It is inevitable that American female soccer stars will match men when it comes to the marginal revenue product, but it is going to take time for the market to catch up. If brands and advertisers consistently notice a demand for women’s soccer, then the market will adapt and the women will be paid more. There is no reason to believe this will not be the case moving forward: The ladies are killing it in merchandise, and national TV ratings are through the roof.
It appeals to the lowest common denominator to blame these things on sexism or misogyny. However, once you stimulate the little gray cells, you learn that there is more to the story than a Counterfeit News Network headline.
That said, it makes you want to get hit in the head by a soccer ball whenever politicians insert themselves into this conversation. Socialist wannabe Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) tweeted about equal pay and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) ironically demanded the women make as much as the men. Are they trolling on purpose?
Why can’t the world just enjoy incredible athletes showcasing their talents without devolving into political discourse? The United States is about to be paralyzed by an overwhelming number of political debates for the next year. At least let us watch sports in peace, please. But too many on the left will not leave us alone. Everything must be politicized! Why must we be subjected to pontifications on social justice, President Donald Trump, white supremacy, and the patriarchy while the Boston Red Sox bullpen experiences another meltdown or the New York Mets bullpen endures another calamity in the ninth inning?
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