In March, 5 members of the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) filed a complaint against the U.S. Soccer Federation regarding equal pay. They asserted that members of the USWNT earned about 25% less than their male counterparts. When we consider the quality of the men's and women's soccer teams, this disparity is surprising.
In world competition, the USWNT are clearly one of the very best. Since FIFA began the Women’s World Cup in 1991 the USWNT has won 3 of the 7 World Cups. Meanwhile, the Men’s FIFA World Cup has been played since 1930 and the U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT’s) best performance occurred in the very first World Cup; and then they only finished 3rd. The current FIFA rankings (as of July 14th) have the USWNT ranked 1st and the USMNT ranked 25th.
"During my time in college I received an enormous amount of media attention," Stewart said. "I'm grateful for that. And now that I'm in the WNBA, playing with other amazing female athletes, I'm trying to understand why we, as professional female athletes, don't receive anywhere near the fame. This has to change."
"Equality for all takes each of us making an effort. Thank you for this honor and together let's be better."
Stewart has had tremendous success everywhere she has played. Stewart has produced 5.5 wins for the Seattle Storm of the WNBA, a mark that currently ranks second in the league (for more information on the calculation on wins produced click here). Last year at the University of Connecticut she produced 12.2 wins, a mark that led a team that won its 4th consecutive NCAA title. In addition, she has represented the USA on the U16, U17, U18 and U19 national teams, and is the youngest player heading to Rio as part of the U.S. Women’s Basketball team.
So Breanna Stewart is an amazing basketball player. Even with all this talent, Stewart -- like many other female athletes -- receives very little respect for her talent. There are numerous factors which contribute to the disparity, many can be linked to stereotypes held regarding women in general. When Sports Center took to Instagram to with a statement about Breanna Stewart’s record 4th Final Four MVP win, the comments were riddled with negative comments.
dlub13:@michaeljn612 "lol its women's ball I can win 20 mvps in that [s***] smh with my [d***] tied between my legs”
mcroberts11: "Only national championship they should be worried about is the sandwich making and beer getting for their husbands championship”
In addition to these comment were people who want to state their thoughts on her appearance. When people comment on male athletes, they don’t say get back to the kitchen or that because of their gender, their ability and sport is less valid.
Stereotypes are not the only issue. There is a real problem with how male and female sports are covered by the media. In an article by Julia Thompson, she references a publication “It’s Dude Time” and says “The report also notes that coverage for men’s sports differs from coverage of women’s sports, saying in the abstract that, “The analysis highlights a stark contrast between the exciting, amplified delivery of stories about men’s sports, and the often dull, matter-of-fact delivery of women’s sports stories.” Commentary for men’s sports is fast-paced and enthusiastic, generating excitement and entertainment while watching. However, women’s sports are covered in a very “matter-of-fact” way, lacking the excitement and pace of men’s coverage.” Thompson also states that “Aside from minimal coverage and extreme disparities in pay and opportunity, what is even worse is how so many people will go out of their way to bash women’s sports and degrade female athletes.” This can be seen in the above comments about Stewart.
At the end of her acceptance speech – as noted above -- Stewart stated “Equality for all takes each of us making an effort.” At a minimum, that means refraining from making degrading comments. But it also means the media has to be sure to cover men and women's sports in the same fashion. Stewart – like the women on the U.S. national soccer team (and so many women in so many different sports – is an amazing athlete. As we do with so many outstanding male athletes, this should be celebrated by all sports fans.