Equal-Pay Win for US Women's Soccer Comes With a Catch

Cheryl Cooky argues athletic superiority shouldn't be a prerequisite
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 2, 2022 12:15 PM CST
Equal-Pay Win for US Women's Soccer Has Big Shortcoming
United States' Megan Rapinoe, left, and her teammate Alex Morgan, right, react after winning the Women's World Cup final soccer match between the United States and the Netherlands at the Stade de Lyon near Lyon, France, on July 7, 2019.   (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File)

The US Women's National Team's big win last week didn't happen in a stadium. After a six-year fight, the soccer team reached a settlement with the sport's American governing body. Writing for NBC News, Cheryl Cooky writes their case "is believed to be the first time women athletes in the US sued their employer for gender discrimination—and succeeded." But Cooky, a professor of American studies and women's, gender, and sexuality studies at Purdue, sees this as an instance of winning the battle but not the war for equal pay in women's sports. She zeroes in on the emphasis in this case that the women were deserving of equal pay due to how successful they were, both in terms of wins and generating revenue.

Cooky runs through the stats that have been regularly cited as part of the USWNT's fight: The men's team, for instance, has failed to even qualify for the last three summer Olympics and hasn't finished a World Cup any higher than third (and that in 1930), while the USWNT has won four World Cups, with its 2019 win reeling in 1.2 billion viewers—the most of any English-language soccer match in US history. Cooky also notes the numbers do an effective job of poking holes into long-running arguments about the women's game not being as exciting or attracting as many viewers. "Yet equality will not be possible if women, in order to be treated fairly and equitably, must surpass the achievements of men," she writes. (Read the full argument here.)

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