In the aftermath of an impressive World Cup win for the U.S. Women’s Soccer team, the players and their fans grew increasingly lurid in demanding “equal pay” with the men’s team — echoing the grievances aired in the team’s lawsuit against U.S Soccer for alleged sex discrimination. The gambit reached its height on Sunday, when Senator Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.) tweeted out the following announcement:
I’ve introduced a #bipartisan plan to ensure equal pay for Americans who represent our country in global athletic competitions, like the World Cup or the Olympics. Currently, men & women can be paid differently for representing #TeamUSA in the same sport.
— Sen. Maria Cantwell (@SenatorCantwell) July 28, 2019
The senator and her coalition might be rather surprised to learn just how differently male and female soccer players are paid.
Earlier this week, U.S. Soccer released an independently audited fact sheet detailing ten years of internal financials. The report includes this poetic revelation: “From 2010 through 2018, U.S. Soccer paid our women $34.1 million in salaries and game bonuses and we paid our men $26.4 million — not counting the significant additional value of various benefits that our women’s players receive but which our men do not.”
It did not end there. The U.S. Women’s Team had frequently invoked a hypothetical “20-friendly” season in which they would earn a paltry 38 cents for every dollar earned by the Men’s Team in that same span. As it happens, the only such gap exists in the other direction:
The widely-reported claim that our women players currently earn only 38 cents for every dollar earned by our men is false. This claim is based on out-of-date numbers that do not reflect what our women’s players actually earn today. In particular, it overlooks the guaranteed salaries described above. The claim is also based on a hypothetical scenario — our men and women each playing 20 friendly matches in a year, which has never happened, and receiving the average bonus amount per game. That said, if the men and women ever did play in and win 20 friendlies in a year and were paid the average bonus amount, a women’s player would earn more from U.S. Soccer than the men’s player — the women’s player would earn at least $307,500 (WNT and NWSL salaries, plus game bonuses) and the men’s player would earn $263,333 (game bonuses only).
The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, in other words, asked for something it didn’t actually want — “equal pay” — and demanded attention be brought to an issue that did not, by any conceivable metric, exist.
Sometimes there’s nothing worse than getting what you asked for.