February 10, 2020
Be a Lady They Said
“You play ball like a girl!” The famous one liner from a childhood classic that was the insult to end all insults. However, have we ever asked why that was? Had they ever even witnessed a girl throwing a ball? For instance, Monica Abbott currently holds a Guinness World Record for fastest softball pitch at 77 mph. (Guinness World Records) Aroldis Chapman also holds a Guinness World Record for fastest baseball pitch at 105.1 mph. . (Guinness World Records) When you look at the numbers straight on it’s easy to conclude Chapman clearly has Abbott beat by a generous amount. But alas, it is not that simple when taking into consideration the distance of the pitch. When comparing the two a 77 mph softball pitch is actually equivalent to an 108 mph baseball pitch. So how is throwing like a girl an insult again? Female athletes are just as talented as male athletes and yet they do not receive the recognition and respect they deserve. A big factor that plays into their lack of recognition is the wide wage gap between female and male athletes. In 2019, Forbes released the list of the top 100 highest paid athletes, and 99 of them were male. (“World’s Highest Paid Athletes 2018.” Forbes) These results truly highlight the blunt reality women are facing in professional sports. These athletes dedicate years of their lives, blood, sweat, and tears and deserve to be rewarded accordingly. A cultural shift is needed in the sports industry. Women’s sports will not achieve parity if the barriers that keep them in the trenches remain. I believe the first step that should be focused on is the contributions made from big brand endorsements.
Once upon a time, a team of top phenomenal female athletes won a world championship in astonishing style. The world rallied behind them with boundless praise and attention. With significant media coverage, and an uproar of newly recruited fans these women were celebrities. Unfortunately, the world not long after returned to their regularly scheduled sports programs. This whirlwind of pride and performance has repeated itself for a total of four times throughout history. At first in 1991, then 1999, up next 2015 and again in 2019. The United States women’s national soccer team (USNWST) has won a total of four World Cups, while the men’s team has won a whopping zero. The women’s team is ranked No. 1 in the world, yet they are paid at a rate of just over one-third of what the men get. (Zimbalist, Andrew) The pay gap in basketball is much worse. WNBA players make $71,635 on average while the average NBA salary is $6.4 million. C To put it into a more drastic perspective, WNBA Phoenix’s DeWanna Bonner was the WNBA’s top earner in 2019 at $127,500 while NBA Warriors Stephen Curry was the top paid NBA player at about $34,000,000. (Zimbalist, Andrew) If that difference isn’t clear then I don’t know what is.
Acknowledging the problem is the first step in the right direction. Nonetheless, how did we get here? Several factors contribute to this gender pay gap in sports but the one that gets tossed around the most is the argument that male sports bring in more revenue. But of course that’s the case when they receive immensely more media coverage, television licenses, and sponsorship deals, which contribute to higher revenue. Which brings me to the point that big brands need to commit to women’s sports as much as they have for men’s. What the history of the USNWST can show us is that when women’s sports receive an influx in media coverage and endorsement it sparks a new wave of fans. The 2019 Women’s world cup brought a record breaking total of 28.1 billion viewers. (“Women’s World Cup: Record-Breaking Numbers.” BBC News) Some might wonder why big brands and organizations would not take that opportunity as a gateway to a new lucrative investment. “The answer is simple — institutionalized practices are often taken for granted, widely accepted and resistant to change.” (Lebel, Katie) Sports have been male dominated for as long as we can remember but it’s time to change our ways. A few remarkable company’s took the stand with the USNWTS in efforts to pave a new way for women’s sports just last year. Budweiser announced it would become the first official beer sponsor of the U.S. National Women’s Soccer League. Their #WontStopWatching hashtag proved their understanding of the issues at hand and how they might be able to best utilize their power to adopt change. It’s small changes that will create the biggest movements. More endorsements will lead to more media coverage which will lead to a increase interest and new fans. To take it even a step further, having more endorsements and coverage could bring more incentive for younger female athletes to pursue careers in what they truly love. Rather than having to let go of a dream because the risk is not worth the reward in a male dominated environment where doing the same physical work, and sometimes doing it more successfully, does not produce the same pay out. Procter and Gamble, an official sponsor of U.S. Soccer, urged the governing body to “be on the right side of history” in support of closing the gender pay gap.
“The fact is, brands have the power to be incredibly influential allies in this quest for change. And there is power in numbers. If more brands were to realize the full weight of their influence in the sporting sphere and demand gender equality in sport, we would collectively be able to put a much deeper crack in that glass ceiling.” (Lebel, Katie) Most experts estimate the gender pay gap in sports will not diminish for another 85 years. That’s 85 years on top of the already present lifetime. This cannot be a slow movement for the simple matter that it shouldn’t be a case at all. Our nation was founded on equality for all, all man to be more specific, but women are finding their voices. However, we need the power and influence these big brands have to act as a megaphone to magnify those voices.
Abrams, Olivia. “Why Female Athletes Earn Less Than Men Across Most Sports.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 26 June 2019, http://www.forbes.com/sites/oliviaabrams/2019/06/23/why-female-athletes-earn-less-than-men-across-most-sports/#5b75133040fb.
“Fastest Baseball Pitch (Male).” Guinness World Records, http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/fastest-baseball-pitch-(male)/.
“Fastest Softball Pitch (Female).” Guinness World Records, http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/fastest-womens-softball-pitch?fb_comment_id=984057011608718_2129518073729267/.
Lebel, Katie. “How Big Brands Could Solve the Gender Pay Gap in Sport.” The Conversation, 27 Jan. 2020, theconversation.com/how-big-brands-could-solve-the-gender-pay-gap-in-sport-120463.
Perasso, Valeria. “100 Women: Is the Gender Pay Gap in Sport Really Closing?” BBC News, BBC, 23 Oct. 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-41685042.
“Women’s World Cup: Record-Breaking Numbers.” BBC News, BBC, 8 July 2019, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-48882465.
“World’s Highest Paid Athletes 2018.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, http://www.forbes.com/athletes/list/3/#tab:overall.
Zimbalist, Andrew. “Female Athletes Are Undervalued, In Both Money And Media Terms.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 19 Apr. 2019, http://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewzimbalist/2019/04/10/female-athletes-are-undervalued-in-both-money-and-media-terms/#32df85d613ed.