By Erin Jones
As a former high-level athlete...
As someone who came to the United States in 1989 with the dream of someday playing for the national soccer team (I was good, but never that good)...
As someone who tried out for two WNBA teams in 2000 and learned that non-drafted players typically were paid $20-$30,000/year (about the same as what I made as a starting teacher)...
As someone who has known players in both the NFL and NBA...
The issue of pay for female athletes has been on my mind for a long time.
The biggest challenge I have seen to making #EqualPay a reality:
There are nowhere near the numbers of people who watch girls’/women’s sports as watch boys’/men’s sports. This is true from high school to college to the pros (with some exceptions). Since ticket sales are what drive income for a team, I have never been able to figure out how we could realistically make the kind of significant jump necessary to pay women on par with men — although I would definitely agree that current levels of compensation are woefully low.
After listening to Megan Rapinoe in the clip below, I made the connection between how we should treat equity in schools and how we should be thinking about it for athletics.
It’s about investment.
It’s about righting wrongs.
It’s about exponentially-increased investment.
It’s a recognition that when we treat the least better, it improves outcomes and experiences for everyone.
It’s about realizing that women, even when they work as hard as men, are fighting an uphill battle — just like Black and Native America students or students in rural-remote communities. No matter how hard they work, there are still barriers in policy, in access, in perception.
Male athletes, on the other hand, have had structures in place to support them professionally for decades — weight training programs, athletic gear sponsorships, training camps, personal coaching, media.
Here’s a school example...
In North Seattle, there are public elementary schools whose PTAs can raise $250,000 at a single event (have been doing so for years; pay for whole teacher salaries with that money), whereas schools in Southeast Seattle struggle even to put together a PTA. One such school in North Seattle decided the equitable thing to do would be to partner with a school in poverty and donate a percentage of the funds.
The “haves” already have. In fact, they typically have far more than they need. It’s about distributing resources to make sure everyone has.
This excerpt from Rapinoe’s interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN gave me a different perspective on #EqualPay. Rapinoe said the issue is about "so much more than the money."
"It's really more about the investment in the game,” Rapinoe said. “Is the investment equal? We're talking marketing dollars and branding, investment in the youth, investment in the players, investment in the coaching staff. I don't think that that's there. I don't think that that's ever been there."
She said the men's side of sports in general is seen as "this exciting opportunity — business opportunity — that needs to be invested in."
"The women's is like, 'How cheap can we do this while sort of keeping them happy?'" she said.
Listen to her message about the different fields men and women get...😔So disappointing!
Her interview gave me lots to think about.
We’ve got to do better. We as a country will be better as a whole when our most vulnerable are better supported — in schools and on the field.