Courtesy of James Bertsch
POV: Thank you, U.S. women’s soccer team – from the father of two daughters
BY JAMES BERTSCH
U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! Equal Pay! Equal Pay! Equal Pay! These chants came roaring down the Canyon of Heroes parade route in NYC at 9.30 a.m. on Wednesday, July 10. The parade celebrated the greatness of the U.S. Women’s World Cup soccer team. Yet, as the father of two school-aged girls, it was a celebration of so much more. It felt much like the first ticker-tape parade must have felt to those New Yorkers in 1886. At that parade, Wall Street workers spontaneously threw ticker tape from their windows to celebrate the unveiling of Lady Liberty.
Our parade celebrated the United States women’s soccer team for winning back-to-back World Cup championships. Only three other teams—Germany women’s (‘03, ‘07), Brazil men’s (1958, 1962) and Italy men’s (1934, 1938)—have successfully defended the cup by winning another one. The cup is played every four years. Given the challenge of playing at a world-class level for such a long period of time, keeping the core of a team together is exceedingly difficult. That’s why only three other teams have done what the United States women just did. We defeated the Netherlands team 2-0 this year.
This parade was also about respect. On March 8, 28 players filed court papers alleging that U.S. Soccer violated the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The players assert that U.S. Soccer practices gender-based pay discrimination and denies players “equal playing, training and travel conditions and promotes [the women’s] games less compared with the men’s soccer team.” Forbes magazine notes that U.S. Soccer responded by explaining pay differs because of differences in the contracts. The contracts are “based on differences in the aggregate revenue generated by the different teams and/or any other factor other than sex.”
U.S. Soccer also claims the men’s team produces more revenue and therefore, the men are entitled to higher pay. An audit from the Wall Street Journal pointed out that U.S. Soccer is correct: revenue between the men’s and women’s is not equal. Yet, since 2016, the women’s team has actually earned $1.87 million more!
Viewership numbers back up the Wall Street Journal’s audit. The ratings for the women’s final were 20 percent higher than for the 2018 men’s final. That’s at least a couple million viewers. Even the women’s semifinal game against England reportedly set a World Cup viewership record over in England. Yet this year’s final viewership record wasn’t quite enough to beat the all-time record holder. That distinction belongs, yep, once again, to the United States women’s team. The 2015 U.S. women’s team defeated Japan with 25.5 million viewers watching on Fox, Telemundo and streaming platforms. So the two most-watched finals are both by the U.S. women’s soccer team, our back-to-back U.S. champions.
This victory and parade was important for our daughters. Gender-based equality is still a dream, not a reality. A woman still has not become a United States president. And when adjusting for education and experience, women still earn 72 cents for every dollar earned by similarly qualified and experienced men. Yet, our women’s team made great strides in making this dream a reality. And they did it by winning.
As a father, what gives me hope is not the accusation of inequality. It’s the transgression. Accusing U.S. Soccer (a proxy for “the system”) of inequality is one thing. Yet, the women’s team just showed us that it isn’t just about winning the game.
As the captain of my college rugby club, I have not outgrown my belief in taking on all comers. We quiet them not by our words, but rather by our play. We quiet them by coming together as a team. We assert our will—as one team, one body—and emerge victorious.
Winning the game and the argument, together, that’s what sets us free.
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