By: Youeal Abera
On Friday, March 8 (International Women’s Day 2019), sportswear company Adidas announced that they will be paying equal bonuses between the winning players of the men and women’s FIFA World Cup teams.
The announcement by Adidas came with an electrifying response, one that reflects a very old debate between those who believe women athletes deserve equal pay, and those who don’t.
Twitter user @Jonesy23 responded to the Adidas announcement by tweeting, “Classic ‘not sexist’ quote but until women can perform at the same level as men they should not be paid the same.” Further down the timeline, Twitter user @icklebeckster tweeted, “Even if I agreed (which I don’t) why does that mean that Adidas shouldn’t reward them in the same way as male athletes, for doing the same job and having success in their own field? Which is ultimately what this is all about…?”
This debate doesn’t just stem from Twitter. This is a conversation that has been around for decades, and people still find themselves entrenched in its never ending search for a solution. The idea that men get paid more than women because their leagues get more attention is a recurring argument. But is popularity really such a significant factor if women put in just the same amount of work and even end up outperforming men in the same sport? Moreover, what always stumps me is a question that I personally have never found an answer to: what do men lose if the women athletes in their sport receive equal pay?
I’ve searched for an answer to this question by listening to what some of the most prolific athletes have had to say regarding the wage gap in sports. In a 2016 interview, Hope Solo articulated what the US Women’s Soccer team was fighting for when it came to the wage gap in soccer, “In this day and age, it’s about equality, it’s about equal rights, it’s about equal pay – and we’re pushing for that.”
I remember reading quotes from Serena Williams talking about the wage gap in sports, and listening to what her most sincere thoughts were, “These sports have a lot of work to do. And I really hope that I can be helpful in that journey because I do believe that women deserve the same pay. We work just as hard as men do. I’ve been working, playing tennis, since I was three years old. And to be paid less just because of my sex — it doesn’t seem fair.”
I also remember reading an essay titled This is Personal by Steph Curry, and seeing what he had to say about the wage gap, “Every day — that’s when we need to be working to close the pay gap in this country. Because every day is when the pay gap is affecting women. And every day is when the pay gap is sending the wrong message to women about who they are, and how they’re valued, and what they can or cannot become.”
Funnily enough, all three of these star athletes never said that men in sports need to be “taken down” so that women can be uplifted. Plainly, each individual stated that because women put in the same amount of work as men in the world of sports, both should be paid the same amount of money.
It’s fairly evident that if Adidas provides the FIFA Women’s soccer team with the same bonus compensation as the men’s team, the men won’t lose anything. If the women were to receive this equal pay, men wouldn’t receive less money, inhabit smaller houses, or even lose endorsement deals. Men would still have access to all of these great resources. Rather, equal pay would just help women in sports gain equal opportunities.
If equal pay between men and women in sports wouldn’t place men at any disadvantage, it’s clear that some men are so vehemently opposed to such advancement for women because they don’t want to relinquish their male privilege. As a result of this fear, these men would rather maintain these unfair economic and social differences than welcome a world where men and women are compensated equally for putting in the same amount of athletic work.