There has been a lot of media attention given to the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) before, during and after their unprecedented fourth FIFA World Cup win and second in a row. Team members have courted controversy on several fronts, notably irking President Trump in their rebuff of his invitation to visit the White House.
Challenging FIFA to pay more
The players have also publicized the massive pay disparity between the men’s and women’s World Cup tournaments. The differences are staggering:
- The total prize money for the men in 2018 was $400 million versus $30 million for the women in 2019.
- The men’s champions receive $1.1 million each while the women’s champions earn about $250,000.
- The men’s prize money will go up to $440 million in 2022, while the women’s pay will double to $60 million, which actually increases the pay gap by $10 million.
Team captain Megan Rapinoe has been one of the team’s most vocal advocates, backing her performance on the soccer pitch with statements about equal pay for the women players.
“It’s certainly not fair,” she said of the pay gap before the final. “Double it now and use that number to double it or quadruple it for the next time. That is what I mean when we talk about whether we feel respected. Earlier in the year, I read FIFA doesn’t care about the women’s game. If you really care about the game in the same way, why are you letting the gap grow?
Fighting to change the culture
The women’s team is well aware of the juggernaut that is the Men’s World Cup. The $6 billion enterprise plays out on the global stage with people around the world riveted by the action. They understand that the women’s teams in some other countries are still trying to catch up, but USWNT is using its platform as the dominant team to raise awareness of all of the women’s teams and with the hope of securing better pay and support from FIFA.
Whether the final pay for women in 2023 is doubled or quadrupled, there is little doubt that the USWNT’s activism has continued a conversation about equal pay and respect that will be taken up by others in soccer and elsewhere in the weeks and months to come.