Last weekend, the U.S. Women’s soccer team beat Japan in the World Cup. It was an exciting game and it broke viewership records. The US team scored three goals in just the first fifteen minutes and two in the second half while Japan scrambled to catch up. Midfielder Carli Lloyd scored three goals, including a trick shot from midfield that went over the keeper’s head and into the goal behind her. The team worked together flawlessly and professionally and Lloyd handed over the captain’s armband to Abby Wambach towards the end of the second half when the elder player came on the field in a sign of respect for Wambach who is retiring after the cup. The US beat Japan 5-2, contributing to a rivalry that started in the 2011 World Cup when Japan initially beat the US in a penalty kick shootout and continued onto the 2012 Olympics where the US beat Japan for a gold medal. After the game, Wambach embraced her wife in the stands while millions cheered and the team celebrated.
Despite all of this, the women’s team was still paid significantly less than the men’s team who only came in 16th in the men’s World Cup last year. In total, the women’s team earned $2 million for winning, while the men’s team was paid $8 million for finishing 11th. The men’s German team won $35 million for winning the world cup, compared to the meager purse for the women earned. Lloyd won a Silver Boot, for being the second highest scorer in the tournament, and a Golden Ball, for being the tournament’s best player. Abby Wambach is the highest scorer ever, for both men’s and women’s soccer. Yet, both of these players are earning significantly less than their lackluster male counterparts.
This pay gap isn’t the only discrepancy FIFA pays against the women’s team. The girls were forced to play on artificial turf for the World Cup in Canada despite campaigning to get real grass. Forcing the women to play on the turf is an embarrassment since the men’s teams would never even worry about playing anything but real grass. Turf is more difficult for the players to play on and more dangerous. Players claim that turf can lead to injuries because it’s slicker than grass and can change how the ball moves. Installing grass would have only cost FIFA about $3 million—a very small amount for a major corporation with a revenue in the billions. Abby Wambach led a group of players to file a claim in court against FIFA earlier this year; they ultimately dropped the claim and conceded to play on the turf.
The president of FIFA—soon to be stepping down after a formal investigation of bribery—Stepp Blatter said that, to draw in more viewers, the women’s players should “have tighter shorts.” He also said, “Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men – such as playing with a lighter ball. That decision was taken to create a more female aesthetic, so why not do it in fashion?” While this was a few years ago, these comments were totally unprofessional for a man leading a powerful corporation to say about his own players. Of course, his comments sparked outrage, but nothing really came of this incident. A few weeks ago, an article on FIFA’s website praised Alex Morgan, a very popular US player, on her looks first and her soccer skills second. It’s hard to understand why FIFA would care about her beauty when she’s busy playing in the World Cup, but, nevertheless, they did and people were upset, taking to Twitter to voice their complaints.
One of the biggest crimes against the women’s teams would be that FIFA paid more a movie praising itself than it did to pay for all of the women’s teams in this year’s World Cup combined. FIFA spent $24 million on Untitled Passions, a biopic that did not do well in the box office. It’s basically a giant advertisement for FIFA, illustrating the history of the organization. It’s a very male-centric, very white film, and currently has a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. Michael Rechtshaffen, of the Los Angeles Times, says the film “comes across as a squirm-inducing heap of propaganda at its most self-congratulatory,” and Kevin Jagernauth, of the Playlist, says it “makes you believe we have yet to witness the true depths of FIFA’s ego and arrogance.” Instead of buying their women’s teams grass to play on or actually giving them equal pay to the men’s, they spent a ton of money on a movie that praises their company and ignores the issues happening now.
Thanks to social media, the gender pay discrimination in major league soccer has been exposed and the conversation doesn’t look like it’s going to stop anytime soon. Ultraviolet, “a women’s rights advocacy organization,” started a petition to demand that women be paid equally to men. Their message is: “Equal pay can’t wait another century. Pay women players fairly.” It’s a concise battlecry that just makes sense. Around 60,000 people signed the petition in just the first day of it opening up and many more signed in the days following. The organization’s founder, Shauna Thomas, calls it a “breakout campaign” because it is a reflection of how so many people around the world feel so strongly about gender pay discrimination. You can support our ladies in soccer and sign the petition here.
All of this buzz is the first step in the right direction. Now that people are being made aware of the issue, things can start to change. It’ll be a long time—a lot longer than the four more years until the next World Cup—but someday soon, FIFA will be forced to consider the true value of the their women’s teams and gender pay discrimination will be eliminated in soccer.
This article was written by Halley Dewey, a writer for dusk magazine.