Equal Play, Equal Pay?

Equal Play, Equal Pay?

DAVE BAKER’S TAKE:

Equality = Equal Pay in Sports – a Landmark case going to the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). They say that once your strap on your cleats everyone plays on an even playing field. That performance on the field is an equalizer, not who has the nicer uniforms, stadium or bigger sponsors. We live in the greatest country this world has ever seen. In the 6,000 or so years that we humans have been ‘civilized’ an experiment in equality was started a mere 200+ years ago. When the great inequalities were thrust upon us by founding governments (think the great British Empire) caused us enough pain that we were willing to take up arms and fight for our own rights – to be free of the tyranny and apparent ‘unjust treatment’ put upon us by an assertive governing body. Those brave souls had to be unbelievably courageous. If you even get the chance walk the Freedom Trail in Boston and remember what it must have been like back then. I’m willing to put everything I have at risk to fight for what is right – and we United States citizens have been doing it ever since. Some with honest intent while others have had more dubious agendas. The U.S. Women’s Soccer team has filed a gender discrimination case against the U.S. Soccer Federation looking for compensation parity with the U.S. Men’s Soccer team. Both of these teams are governed by the same organization. Think FIFA (the world governing body of soccer) only U.S. country specific without all of the graft and political morass, or is it? Some simple facts: The U.S. Women’s Soccer team is the greatest female athletic team in the world. There are none better nor as accomplished. Not in Europe or Asia or South America where this is the most dominant sport played by every athlete. They are the model for every little girl who wanted to play a competitive highly physical sport. Just ask my daughter Maria who played this with the same intensity but with greater acclaim than any of her three brothers. It’s the most aggressive physically demanding of all sports. In a typical 90 minute game each player, save the goalie, runs an average of 5-6 miles, with opponents constantly trying to beat you, physically, with their feet and legs and bodies. Think full contact – all the time! At the professional level, you have limited substitutions, in fact only 3 are permitted throughout the entire game. Try that as a football or basketball player. Add a continuous running clock – hint: there are no timeouts in this sport. No chance to get your legs or catch a breather. Let’s add one more important aspect of this sport – the only protective gear you can wear is a pair of 7 inch shin guards so that when an opponent kicks you (usually legally) as hard as they can the pain is distributed over your entire lower leg and not just at the point of contact. This U.S. Women’s Team and each of their players is paid on average only 45% of their male counterparts. How many world cups have the men played in? That’s not fair. How many elite eight have the men’s team played in World Cup history? And final four or championship games? Your Jeopardy answer – What is none! The women have won the ‘World Championship’ THREE TIMES and competed in the championship game four times. The won it all again just last year. The US Soccer Federation has used the argument that the men’s team draws more crowds and generates more revenue than the women’s – after all they are men! Yet the truth is that last year the women’s team generated a $16 million dollar PROFIT for the U.S. Federation while the men’s team lost $2 million. When we went to see the women’s team play at Heinz field last year there was a crowd of more than 44,000 people there. Not bad for an exhibition game! Of course it helped that local prodigy Meghan Klingenberg of Pine Richland was on the team and starts as a defender. So now, on behalf of the entire team, five of the stars of the team have filed a class action suit against their employer, the U.S. Soccer Federation. In a country where equality really, really means something, after all we’re willing to take up arms to protect those inalienable rights, it’s about time! Having been in front of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission arguing in defense of both my clients and employers, I’m wondering what defense that their employer is going to use? This isn’t about sponsorship, or viewers. It will be hard to use Nielsen ratings or team popularity – these athletes are rock stars! Perhaps this glass ceiling once shattered, will bring on its own revolution! This should be a wake-up call to all compensation committees everywhere. After all equality is worth fighting for – just read your history books! Dave P.S. Dave was a four year varsity soccer letterman in college, has been coaching youth soccer for the past 30 years and a high school coach for the past 20. All four of his children played soccer from age 5 through high school. They were all named to their respective All Section Teams. His daughter was the only one named to the All WPIAL Team. Why? Some might say because she had to compete against the boys, and that made her stronger than the rest. The U.S. Women’s team has proven their strength and their value – isn’t it time their compensation reflected it?

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