On the Bench: Equal pay for equal play

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It’s no secret that professional athletes earn quite a hefty salary. Athletes can earn millions of dollars each year just for playing sports. However, like many other jobs in the U.S., gender plays a huge part in an athlete’s pay grade.

The U.S. women’s national soccer team is taking a stand against the pay inequality in professional sports. According to The New York Times, the team has filed a law suit against U.S. Soccer demanding pay and benefits similar to those that the members of the men’s national soccer team receive.

The wage gap between males and females in professional sports is enormous. Forbes reports that the highest paid male in Major League Soccer, Cristiano Ronaldo, earns approximately $79 million per year. On the other hand, Alex Morgan of the Women’s National Soccer League earns roughly $1 million per year from both pay and endorsements. There is absolutely no reason for the wage gap between players to be this large.

The women’s national team is currently the best in the world, earning the number-one rank for the second year in a row. The team has not fallen below second in the world since the creation of FIFA’s ranking system in 2003. The men’s national soccer team, however, is not nearly as accomplished as the women’s team. The men currently rank 29th overall and have never won a World Cup or an Olympic medal. But, apparently, the women’s team’s three World Cup Championships and four Olympic gold medals haven’t been enough to warrant equal pay.

The women are doing the exact same job as the men, if not better. So why should they be paid significantly less? Some argue that the women’s national team doesn’t generate as much revenue as the men’s team, simply because women’s sports are unpopular. However, according to Daily News, the team drew in 26.7 million viewers during last year’s World Cup — the highest number of recorded U.S. viewers to ever watch a soccer game.

In order to further their case, the women’s national team has threatened to boycott the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, if they are not granted fair compensation, according to Bleacher Report. The team is the current favorite to take the gold medal, and it would be devastating for U.S. Soccer if the women refused to participate. However, it honestly shouldn’t have to come to this. The women are doing the exact same job as the men and, ultimately, have the right to be compensated in the same manner. Refusing to grant equal wages to the team simply because they are women is sexist and morally unjust.

These women should not have to make a spectacle of themselves as they fight for something they rightfully deserve: equal pay. They should not have to march onto the field before their games sporting banners that read “Equal Play = Equal Pay.” The U.S. Soccer Federation should realize that this is the 21st century, and it should no longer exploit women for their labor.

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