U.S. women’s World Cup win sparks Title IX debate
By Evan Lips | July 10, 2015, 14:31 EDT
BOSTON – The U.S. women’s soccer team World Cup triumph on Sunday has reignited an old conversation about the limits of Title IX, the federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs including athletics.
The day after Team USA’s 5-2 victory over Japan, CommonWealth Magazine reported that the U.S. women’s soccer team took home $2 million for winning it all, while the winner of the 2014 men’s cup, Germany, netted $35 million.
The $33 million pay-gap story was covered by almost every major news outlet that same day, from the four dominant news networks to sports giant ESPN. The story quickly gained traction in all corners of cyberspace, with the popular narrative being that the women got “stiffed” by Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), international soccer’s governing body.
The Huffington Post reported Tuesday that the women’s victory has inspired a “national movement” in favor of pay equity in professional sports and linked to an online petition protesting the fact that the U.S. men’s team earned $7 million more than the women’s team for bowing out in the first round last summer.
Democrats wasted no time exploiting the U.S. women’s victory for fundraising purposes.
On Friday The Hill reported that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee featured the U.S. Women’s team in a fundraising email.
“The women of the U.S. national soccer team are absolutely extraordinary,” the email states. “But there’s one thing about that is absolutely ordinary. Infuriatingly, unconscionably ordinary. They get paid less than men for doing the same work.”
The Hill reports that the email links to a petition circulating on the DCCC’s site demanding that Republicans “close the pay gap.”
The Hill also reports that U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is preparing a resolution calling on FIFA to pay women the same as men.
Missing from this discussion, however, is any mention of the differences in revenue generated by the two World Cup events. According to FIFA, the men’s games in Brazil generated roughly $4.4 billion in total revenue, up from the $4 billion generated from South Africa’s 2010 games.
FIFA has not yet released revenue figures for the women’s games but they are expected to be lower. A Wall Street Journal report documenting the sponsorship fees alone states that the women’s World Cup drew approximately $17 million in sponsorship money compared to the $529 million the men’s games drew.
Since the 2011 women’s World Cup, sponsorship money for the women’s game has tripled. U.S. Soccer reports that the ratings for the final game against Japan made Sunday night’s telecast the most-watched soccer game in American television history.
But Hadley Heath Manning, a senior policy analyst for the Independent Women’s Forum, a right-of-center Washington, D.C. based women’s advocacy group, notes that raw numerical comparisons don’t always tell the whole story.
“When it comes to sports, there’s traditionally been greater demand for men’s sports than women’s sports,” said Manning. “This year’s women’s World Cup Finals game was an exception to the rule and drew more U.S. viewers than ever (for men’s or women’s soccer).”
But Manning maintained that, ordinarily, “the men’s World Cup tournament collects much more money in sponsorship and TV revenue, and the award money reflects that.”
FIFA is not, of course, an educational institution covered by Title IX. But the World Cup pay-gap story has focused attention on athletic disparities at U.S. colleges and universities.
For its part, CommonWealth Magazine used the World Cup pay-gap story as an opportunity to repost its 2010 cover story on funding disparities in men’s and women’s athletic programs at the state’s 21 public colleges and universities, all of which are covered by Title IX.
The magazine’s latest story on the topic cites U.S. Department of Education statistics, which show that the University of Massachusetts-Amherst spent an average of $29,430 per athlete on men’s sports and an average of $16,340 per athlete on women’s sports during the 2008-2009 school year.
UMASS-Amherst spokesman Ed Blaguzewski did not return requests for comment but a deeper look into the 2013 DOE data from Massachusetts public and private colleges and universities shows that:
• Men’s varsity teams in Massachusetts generated more than $153 million in revenue in 2013; women’s varsity teams generated roughly $98.5 million.
• The average men’s head coach earned a little less than $49,000 in 2013; the average women’s head coach earned a little more than $32,000.
• Male athletes received $42.9 million in financial aid; female athletes received $40.3 million.
• Game day expenses for male teams totaled $38.1 million; operating expenses for female teams totaled a little less than $22 million.
• Recruiting expenses for men’s teams totaled $4.1 million; women’s recruiting expenses totaled only $2 million.
• Total expenses for men’s teams checked in at $150.5 million; total expenses for women’s teams amounted to $100.8 million.
Looking specifically at the state’s 21 public institutions, the 2013 data shows that:
• Men’s teams generated $27 million in revenue; women’s teams generated $16 million. Of the $27 million generated by men’s teams, $15 million came from basketball and football – programs featuring a combined total of 1,029 players. Of the $16 million generated by women’s teams, $12 million was generated by its 234 basketball players.
• The 129 men’s head coaches earned an average salary of $32,470; the 129 women’s head coaches earned an average salary of $22,698.
• Male athletes received $6.6 million in financial aid compared to $5.1 million for women.
• Game day expenses for men’s teams totaled $8.4 million; women’s teams totaled $4.5 million.
• Recruiting expenses for men’s teams checked in at $908,000 compared to $432,000 for women’s teams.
• Total expenses for men’s teams amounted to $27 million; women’s teams totaled $16 million.
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