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Cleveland On the Travesty in Sports

So, just when you thought the 11.7 scholarships college baseball teams are forced to share constitutes the worst travesty in sports, you learn you were wrong.

As awful and inexcusable as the college baseball scholarship limit is, the inequity in pay in World Cup Soccer – men vs. women – is far, far worse.

The figures are staggering.

Here are two facts that should tell you all you need to know about the injustice:

• Team USA women’s players make roughly 38 cents on the dollar what their male counterparts make.

• The women are champions; the men are not.

Sunday, the U.S. women won the World Cup for the third time since 1996, defeating Netherlands 2-0. In that same time period the U.S. women have won Olympics Gold four times and have consistently been ranked No. 1 in the world.

Over that same period, the men have won nothing nearly so grand. Last year, our men did not even qualify for the World Cup.

Women’s coach Jill Ellis earned $318,000 last year. That’s nice. You could live on that. But men’s coach Jurgen Klinsmann, since fired, made more than 10 times that: $3.35 million

Did I say staggering? The numbers border on criminal.

According to published reports, the men earned more than $5 million in bonuses for losing in the quarterfinal of the 2014 World Cup. The women were paid about $1.7 million in bonuses for winning the 2015 World Cup.

One team loses and gets paid handsomely. The other wins everything in sight and gets paid, by comparison, in crumbs.

And I know what some of you are thinking and probably saying to yourselves right now. I know, because I’ve had this discussion over and over the last couple weeks.

Yes, you say, but there’s more interest in the men. It’s the same as the NBA vs. the WNBA. The men bring in more money. The TV ratings are higher. There’s more TV money for men’s telecasts.

And you would be WRONG.

The Wall Street Journal reports that as recently as 2017 the women’s team earned a $5 million profit for U.S. Soccer. That same year, the men operated at a $1 million deficit. The women earned more money in ticket revenue.

The pay discrepancy certainly has nothing to do with TV ratings. By any measure, the U.S. women’s team this year has smashed all ratings records for soccer. (Yes, and every sports bar in America should consider sending a check to the women for the business boom they’ve seen recently for weekday and Sunday morning business.)

We live in a world – and country and state – where men make more higher salaries than their female counterparts. In 2017, the National Partnership for Women & Families found that women in Mississippi make about 75 percent of what their male counterparts make for performing the same jobs. An educated guess: In many cases, the women who are making less are doing more and performing better.

What the U.S. Soccer women have done – and done so with so much panache – is show the world the just how unjust the gender pay gap is. They’ve shown us first-hand – in high definition and sometimes slow motion – that they deserve at least equal pay and probably much higher salaries than the men.

You probably know that back in March the U.S. Women’s team filed a gender discrimination suit against U.S. soccer. No telling how long it will take that case to be decided – in court, that is.

In the court of public opinion, the U.S. women already have won. Decisively. They kicked the ever-living you-know-what out of both opponents and the idea they have been treated anywhere near fairly.

Pay them.

Email syndicated columnist Rick Cleveland at rcleveland@mississippitoday.org.

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
Sports Editor

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