Unified Sports Would Bring Megan Rapinoe Equal Pay

  • Post category:Opinion

Title IX Could Be the New Version of “Separate but Equal”

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With a World Cup win under her belt, anti-hero Megan Rapinoe has shifted her public speeches from crude insults against a sitting president to policy suggestions for the selfsame president. Her biggest gripe is that the Woman’s Soccer team does not receive the same pay as the Men’s Soccer team. The pay gap in the United States is a hot topic and while it is odd that Rapinoe chooses to attack the president, who has initiated the most aggressive program to end pay inequality, it does raise a good point. Why are women’s sports paid less then men’s sports? While she may be an easy target for anger and angst, this is a discussion that we need to have if we are going to evolve as a nation.

One of the oddest arguments that Rapinoe made is that “[the] fight for equality in women’s soccer is much more than about money. It’s about investment in the sport.” According to Forbes, investing in Women’s Soccer has a much lower return than investing in Men’s soccer. One report shows that during the world cup in Russia, the tournament earned over $6 billion (US), of which FIFA doled out only $400 million to the players (less than 7%). Contrast that with the current estimates for this year’s Women’s World cup cycle, where only $131 million is expected to be earned, of which FIFA is expected to give the players $30 million, or 23%. Rapinoe’s argument, “It’s about investment in the sport,” is a fallacious argument. If it was open to investment, Women’s Soccer would be a “sell” not a “buy.”

When “separate but equal” is not equal, then we are never equal.

What is disturbing is that the battle cry “equal pay for equal pay,” is problematic. Percentage-wise, women make more than men in the world cup. A reporter for the Huffington Post, Jenifer Bendry, noted that the losing team of men in the World Cup received a bonus of $5.4 million, while the winning women’s team only received a bonus of $1.7 million. Blatant discrimination, right? Not when you look at the numbers like a business does. Once again, men’s soccer brought in over $6 billion, which means that the bonus was 0.09%. Compare that to the women’s soccer bonus of $1.7 million of the $131 million in revenue, which amounts to 1.2%. If they truly want “equal pay for equal pay,” then the women’s team should be paid on the same percentage scale as the men’s team.

FIFA, and soccer in general, is a business; as such, the owners are only going to pay out based on what they bring in. With women’s soccer making approximately 2% of what men’s soccer makes in revenues – paying that much would be asking FIFA to pay all of the revenue to the players, which is a bad business decision.

Rapinoe’s argument does bring up a good question. Why do we have women’s sports in the first place? Title IX of the Education Amendment Act of 1972 states, “No person in the United States  shall, one the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal aid for assistance…” (20 U.S.C. §1681-§1688). This is largely seen as the law which establishes the “requirement” for women’s sports in the United States. While we are looking at professional sports, almost all professional athletes come up through the high school or college system, which receives federal funding – so all would have “benefited” from this law. However, nowhere in the law states that there needs to be women’s teams – only that person’s are not denied the benefit of a sports program based on gender.

Title IX’s “meaning” has been established by the courts through a series of cases. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation the courts have established a three prong test, which like most of the tests created by the court appears nowhere in the law. The three prongs of this test are:

  1. Participation – The court has muddied the water about what participation is, mainly through the same logic that was used to justify the Negro Leagues in baseball. As long as women have the same number of teams (this area is even muddier) then the school is basically in compliance with the law. This section also looks at the history of the school, but also looks at modern practices – which means that a school must pass an additional two-part test (are you messing up now or have you ever messed up) if the answer to either of these questions is yes, then the school will likely be seen as “out of compliance.” The final part of this first prong is “fully and effectively” providing for the interests of the underrepresented sex, which is an idiotic standard. Basically, this allows the students to run the athletic program, but this is another problem for another time.
  2. Athletic Financial Assistance – The courts have ruled that the amount of scholarships awarded to student athletes must be based on the number of students of each sex participating in the athletics program. As schools are businesses, who are in the business of educating students – this requirement is also a show of the court’s incompetence. Schools are for learning, not for athletics. A school’s academic programs should not be held hostage because an activist court has ruled that extracurricular programs cannot allot money based on revenue, which in turn benefits the general fund. Insisting that scholarships be given out for sports that do not generate revenue is forcing colleges to use money, which could be used for academics, to subsidize an extracurricular activity. The best way to deal with this is that no school that receives federal funds should be allowed to give any scholarships that are not need or academics based.
  3. Treatment – This is the biggest problem of Title IX. According to The Women’s Sports Foundation: “This third compliance prong of Title IX requires equivalence in other athletic benefits and opportunities and includes all other program areas not previously covered. Title IX does not require that each men’s and women’s team receive exactly the same services and supplies, but it looks at the entirety of the treatment the men’s and women’s programs receive as a whole. The equivalence of overall treatment is measured on the basis of eleven criteria. We have listed them here and provided a brief explanation of the legal standard for each.” This passage could have been taken out of any “Separate but Equal” book, law or ruling from 1890-1954. With all the hype between Kamala Harris and Joe Biden talking about busing and equality, we still have a gross violation of the United States Constitution in Title IX. Brown v. the Board of Education (1954) stated that separate but equal was never equal, which is why women and men are disadvantaged by Title IX today.

Unified Sports is the Answer

Women’s Soccer is the Negro Leagues of modern sports. When sports were first integrated, racists said that the best Black men would not be able to compete with the best White men in the sport. Jackie Robinson proved them wrong. Now we are seeing the same thing in Women’s sports. Yes, the bottom echelon of women’s athletes will not be able to compete, but what we ignore is that the bottom echelon of men will also be removed from the pool. Unified sports is the answer, not “separate but equal.”

If we begin integrating sports at an early age, the level of skill will rise at the same level. While some women will not have the same speed or strength, they will compensate with agility and quickness. The sports will evolve and the world will be better for it. One major benefit will be that athletes will have to spend more time training and we will not have “bored” superstars like Rapinoe or failed “superflops” like Colin Kaepernick telling us about wage disparity when they make 25-100 times what the average American makes (Estimated net worth of Rapino is $3 million, estimated net worth of Kaepernick $20 million, avg American $141.625). 

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Sports should be something that draws people together, not something that is used to create hate within society. These athletes have had the ultimate privilege in their lives, they play a game and do not have to work a “real job.” Maybe this is why their politics are so one sided. Both Rapino and Kaepernick started their crusade because they did not think they were being paid enough money. Kaepernick created a fake social justice message to cover up the hypocrisy of being worth millions and complaining how life was unfair. Rapinoe focused her attention on something real, though started spouting alternative facts to justify her case. We need to end the era of separate but equal in the United States. The artificial gender divide in sports has resulted in men gender-transitioning to women and taking away legitimate chances for women to succeed. When “separate but equal” is not equal, then we are never equal – and since “separate but equal” is never equal, we will never be equal until it is abolished.

Christopher W Smithmyer
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