ATLANTA (CBS46) -- Controversy swirled this week when Atlanta United Manager Frank De Boer made a comment about equal pay in sports. His comment drew immediate scorn from across the digital spectrum.
In the original interview, De Boer stated:
I think for me, it’s ridiculous. It’s the same like tennis. If there are watching, for the World Cup final, 500 million people or something like that, and 100 million for a women’s final, that’s a difference. So it’s not the same. And of course they have to be paid what they deserve to [earn] and not less, just what they really deserve. If it’s just as popular as the men, they will get it, because the income and the advertising will go into that. But it’s not like that, so why do they have to earn the same? I think it’s ridiculous. I don’t understand that.
But the problem has gone much farther than just sports.
De Boer’s comment comes on the heels of the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team taking home the National Championship.. for the fourth time in history. After the win, the American team took legal action against the U.S. Soccer Federation claiming sex discrimination and demanding the same pay as the much less successful U.S men’s team. Frankly, because the pay difference is intense.
U.S. professional women soccer players make roughly $30,000 less a year than U.S. men’s team players, and that is not even including bonuses.
As a ‘retired’ athlete myself, this is a conversation that hits home. My entire athletic career, I never played professionally, but just measuring through attendance and investment, I often noticed we [women] never got the same response as our male counterparts. I grew up playing all kinds of sports, but mainly soccer and basketball. Whether it was games and matches or public appearances; the public response to the idea of female competition was never the same as anything involving male athletes and the attendance reflected that.
The fact that equal pay for men and women – who literally do the same tasks - is a recurring issue that blows my mind. But it is in fact a very prominent issue, both in the sports world and in the work force.
I asked my former teammate Shannon Driscoll for her take. She listened to De Boer’s comment and had a very passionate response.
I think it is easier to speak with that mindset when you are [seen as] the superior gender in sports. Coaches with winning teams get paid more, so why is it not the same for teams who win? The women [National Team] are the superior team, they work harder and produce more results. Why wouldn’t they get paid more?” She continues, “As for the amount of people attending.. I am pretty sure the women had a larger fan base when they are competing in the world cup than the men. So the facts do not align. Let’s start paying a coach more money that loses more than Atlanta United and see if his thoughts about that changes.
The controversial comment brought back to light the pay disparity women fight every day. Two days later, De Boer issued another statement - hoping to clarify.
I’d like to clarify my thoughts in yesterday’s Guardian story. When taken in its full context, my position is that I wholly respect and support the women’s game and am encouraged and excited by its growth both internationally and here in the US. I do believe when it comes to the economics of the game, as popularity keeps increasing it will lead to increased revenue and higher salaries in the women’s game, which is fantastic and what we all want to see. I am proud to be a part of a club that embraces equality, and I apologize for any distraction this has become for our team and organization.
As for the women players, they will negotiate to try to settle their pay dispute with the federation. For everybody else, progress in equal pay for all is hopeful, and I guess the good fight will continue.