Andy Scholes walks through US Soccer’s landmark equal pay deal with the NWSL. (Peter Cianflone/Getty Images)
It seems that any time women’s soccer is discussed in America, it is about pay equality.
The conversation is as common as the question, “Have you tried the chicken parm?” Or as ubiquitous as the question, “Have you tried the salad?” Or as ubiquitous as “How does the salad taste?” In this case the salad was delicious, the chicken parm was good, and the issue was women’s soccer in the United States as the world’s best sport is one of the few things that doesn’t divide Americans.
And yet, the issue of pay equality between women’s and men’s teams is a complicated one.
It turns out that, from a women’s soccer perspective, pay equality is not about money. It is about how men and women are treated and valued.
In November of 2015, the National Women’s Soccer League announced a gender pay disparity in its new television contract for this year. The league had been seeking an annual increase of $2 million annually for the new TV deals that will take effect this season, but the NWSL’s executive board felt that the new television deal should be $1.65 million per year. In response, the NWSL made its own counter offer of $1.25 million annually and the league board voted unanimously to accept that amount.
It’s a curious argument that for the NWSL to accept the money that the men’s and women’s top-flight players are earning at the highest level in professional soccer would be in effect be paying a wage to the players that was a third of one of their salaries, but the NWSL Board didn’t think it through. The board did not ask for the women’s market to be treated less favorably than the men’s market. They didn’t consider the cost of traveling for the women’s national team to the Olympics in Brazil and the financial burden they would place on the women’s national team.
Yet, because the NWSL Board made a decision without asking women and men about the issue, it seems to many that the women’s players and the women