U.S. women’s soccer triumph drives push for equal pay
The U.S. women’s soccer team came back to New York City this week to a ticker-tape parade and chants of “USA! Equal pay!”—echoing the shouts in the stadium that greeted the squad’s fourth World Cup victory. Tens of thousands of paradegoers cheered the team, which turned in a historically overpowering performance, winning its seven matches 26-3, including a 2-0 defeat of the Netherlands for its second straight title. The team was defiantly joyful and relentless in the process, beginning with an unheard-of 13-0 romp of Thailand. The Americans celebrated goal after goal, sometimes cheekily—as when forward Alex Morgan pretended to sip tea after scoring in the semifinal against England. “There is some sort of double standard for females in sports,” Morgan said to critics, a theme that continued after the Americans’ triumph.
The women’s team is pursuing a gender discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation, claiming they make less than the underperforming men’s team. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) proposed a bill this week that would withhold federal funding for the U.S.’s hosting of the 2026 men’s World Cup until the teams got equal pay. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer invited the women champions to visit the Capitol after President Trump demurred on a White House invite. Co-captain Megan Rapinoe, the dominant player of the tournament, said Trump distracts from the example her teammates have set: “They have inspired particularly young women to believe in themselves, to be brave, to be bold, to be fierce.”
What the columnists said
This victory “does something much bigger than just hand a few women a trophy,” said Sally Jenkins in WashingtonPost.com. It elevates all women who are constantly being challenged for “proof of competence.” These players were “genial and beautiful and blisteringly smart and totally imperturbable under pressure.” Yet while the U.S. men couldn’t even qualify for the last World Cup, the women are still “treated as some kind of subsidized junior varsity.” Consider the absurd pettiness of a system that, until 2016, even gave women players $15 a day less for meals.
“The equal-pay complaint is almost entirely bunk,” said Rich Lowry in NationalReview.com. Yes, the women make less, but their game “isn’t as popular or profitable.” The global soccer body FIFA raked in more than $6 billion from the 2018 men’s World Cup, while this year’s women’s tournament will make about $130 million. The teams’ separate collective-bargaining arguments are complex, making “apple-to-apple” comparisons impossible. Fortunately, the women are poised for an advertising windfall. They should keep the focus on being world champs, not “plaintiffs.”
These players “talk the talk and walk the walk,” said Lauren Peace in The New York Times. It was remarkable to watch Rapinoe, the top scorer, “arms stretched wide, chest puffed out, pink-haired head held high.” She and her teammates were unapologetic about their dominant performance, and their fight for equality. Right now, “they’re the most American thing we’ve got going.”