Earlier this month, soccer players Megan Rapinoe and Margaret Purce sat down with the president and first lady to discuss equal pay for equal work.
They spoke of the injustices of the supposed wage gap and the measures that will be taken, at the federal level, to atone for these wrongs. The conversation was full of fallacies, one of the most glaring being that female athletes should receive equal pay for “equal work.”
Men’s Sports Are More Popular
As a former female athlete myself, I’ll be the first to say that men’s and women’s sports are not at all equal — and I’m not talking about the pay, praise, or attention that each receives. Simply put, males are more dominant athletes and, therefore, their sporting events attract greater audiences and greater revenue. This is not sexist, prejudiced, or even slightly unfair. It’s a truth grounded in natural, biological differences and statistics.
In her address at the Equal Pay Day event, Megan Rapinoe stated, “You see, despite all the wins, I’m still paid less than men who do the same job that I do. For each trophy, of which there are many, and for each win, for each tie and for each time that we play, it’s less.”
3.6 billion people watched the men’s World Cup; 756 million watched the women’s.
Well, yes, Megan, you are paid less because — despite your great talent — men’s soccer is still more popular on the world stage. The quality of competition is much higher, there are far more men’s teams competing, and MLS generates huge amounts of revenue.
Nearly half the world tuned in to watch the men’s World Cup in 2018 (that’s nearly 3.6 billion viewers). FIFA, the tournament’s sponsor, profited over $6 billion. In contrast, the women’s World Cup in 2015 garnered only 756 million viewers.
You don’t have to search deeply for evidence that men’s soccer is more competitive. Simply take the fact that the U.S. women’s team recently lost to an under-15 boys squad, 5-2. Our women are the best in the world. But, biologically, men (and boys) will always have the upper hand when it comes to athletics. We’re just created differently.
Athletes Are Paid according to How Much Money They Bring In
At the end of the day, athletes are no different than entertainers. So pay for athletes should be based on their entertainment value and the money they bring in. Imagine if Mandolin Orange (a very talented, albeit lesser-known folk duo) demanded that they be paid as much as Taylor Swift because they’re working really hard to make music too. Never mind that their concerts are a fraction of the size of Swift’s, their album sales are minuscule compared to hers, and far fewer people are being entertained by their music. In this case (and in sports), equal pay for equal work sounds like utter nonsense because the “work” is not producing equal results.
You shouldn’t be paid for your efforts, but for the outcome of your efforts.
So, let’s change the wording a little bit. You shouldn’t be paid for your efforts, but for the outcome of your efforts. As UFC legend Ronda Rousey boldly stated, “How much you get paid should have something to do with how much money you bring in.”
The disparity in pay for male and female athletes and entertainers doesn’t stem from misogynistic ideals, but from practical rules of economics and, yes, fairness. It’s absolutely fair to base someone’s pay on the revenue they generate.
Instead of asking for “equal pay,” we should ask for what’s truly just — merit-based pay in which you get what you earn. Maybe the U.S. women’s soccer team does deserve a salary raise because they have indeed been performing extremely well in the past several years. But, to demand that their pay equal that of their male counterparts doesn’t make sense because they’re not, through their play, earning that pay. Athletes are entertainers, and their wages should be reflective of the quality of their entertainment.
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