It’s time for equal respect

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The past few weeks for sports have been breathtaking. You know, Kobe’s last game. The Warriors surpassing the ‘96 Bulls. So many moments, such little time.

Unfortunately, though, a very important issue has been put in the backseat in the last few weeks. I guess I am wrong to use the word “unfortunate,” because, well, not paying attention to women’s sports is not exactly “unfortunate” for many people, right?

Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Becky Sauerbrunn and Carli Lloyd on behalf of the US Women’s National Team, or USWNT, filed an EEOC charge of discrimination against US Soccer, the governing body of American soccer, on March 30, citing that the members of the USWNT were paid substantially less money than the men.

When I first heard this, I was surprised. Like, really surprised. Unlike many of those around me, my surprise was not because of the fact that women were demanding equal pay. It was because I expected them to be on par with men on salary levels.

How idealist of me to even think that this was possible in the world of sports.

Including all the bonuses and per diems, the US men’s national team, or USMNT, earns up to $17,625 for a win and $5,000 for a loss. The USWNT, on the other hand, earns $1,350 only if it wins.

Yeah, that’s right: $17,625 for a team that loses to Guatemala and struggles to defeat the likes of Trinidad and Tobago and Panama. On the other hand, $1,350 is going to a team that just won the World Cup and is a four-time Olympic gold medalist.

One thing I love about sports is that the only thing that matters is the performance on the field or court. If you perform well, everything else will fall in place. The USWNT situation, however, is totally contradictory to what I always perceived sports to be.

Here’s the thing: Women deserve more recognition and respect in the world of sports. The USWNT case is not just one of salary disparity, it’s a case of not giving phenomenal female athletes their due and always seeing them as secondary in a field dominated by men.

The USWNT has won three world cups in its history. Three. For a tournament that has happened only seven times, three is a huge number, and winning a world cup in any sport is a great accomplishment. The fact that such a group of players is at odds with the administration for making what I feel is a fair demand is perplexing.

Considering that US soccer is a not-for-profit organization, both male and female players should be paid equally. And, if someone has to put up the revenue-based income argument, the USWNT generates more revenue than the USMNT. If this is put into place, then members of the USWNT might surpass their male counterparts in salaries.

More importantly, however, is the fact that this is an extraordinary team. If winning is the currency of sport, then there should be no questions about meeting the demands of the USWNT and increasing its members’ salary.

What they want is not just equal pay, but equal recognition for their hard work. This is true for all of sports. Female tennis players are often not regarded in the same breath as many of their male counterparts. Prize money disparity in Grand Slam tournaments existed for a long time in tennis and it was only in 2007, thanks to the pioneering work of many women players such as Billie Jean King and Venus Williams, that all Grand Slams started giving out equal prize money for both genders.

Athletes, both male and female, sacrifice a lot to get the awards and recognition they ultimately receive, and it is shameful that discrimination over their hard work exists. The only discrimination that should matter in sports is winning and losing. Any other form of discrimination is utter bullshit.

Devang Prasad covers beach volleyball. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @DevangPrasad.