Level the Playing Field

It is not a surprise, nor a particularly well-kept secret. A simple google search will return hundreds of thousands of results across professional sports. Women’s sports and athletes are disrespected around the globe. It is long past the time we need to level the playing field and inequities between men’s and woman’s sports. Time and time again we see the same story, and the same excuses from the lackluster coverage and PayScale of the incredibly dominant 2019 USWNT in comparison to their male counterparts who were knocked out of the tournament earlier the previous year. To the incredible disparity in NBA and WNBA pay scales. You have athletes pledging parts of their salaries to help remedy the pay gap. An overwhelming number of WNBA players are forced to play overseas in the offseason where they make considerably more than they do at home. There are multiple first-hand accounts on this disparity including this video from Vice and Seimone Augustus.

Megan Rapinoe was incredibly outspoken both during the tournament and even in recent articles about the blatant lack of respect and valuation of their skill. Going as far to say “It’s really more about the investment in the game. Is the investment equal? We’re talking marketing dollars and branding, investment in the youth, investment in the players, investment in the coaching staff. I don’t think that that’s there. I don’t think thatthat’s ever been there. The men’s side of sports in general is seen as this exciting opportunity, business opportunity that needs to be invested in.

The women’s is like, ‘How cheap can we do this while sort of keeping them happy?’” The dominance of the USWNT winning back-to-back world cups is insane. Even more insane is the Pascale discrepancy being so drastic “the USWNT team filed a lawsuit against U.S. Soccer, seeking better pay for women, who reportedly earned 38 per cent of what their male counterparts make. That lawsuit stipulated that if each team played and won 20 exhibition games in a year, “female WNT players would earn a maximum of $99,000 or $4,950 per game, while similarly situated male MNT players would earn an average of $263,320 or $13,166 per game”. The USWNT record that tournament was an undefeated 7-0 culminating in a world cup win, whereas the male counterparts the year prior didn’t even qualify for the tournament. Julie Ertz was treated as a footnote to her husband (although he is an NFL TE, her career and accolades far surpass his at the professional level) all throughout the tournament.

However, I think the most disparaging event of date has been how the 2021 NCAA March Madness tournament has been handled. The blatant disregard for these athletes that was only partially rectified as a result of public outcry is shameful. These are athletes that are supposed to be getting the same coverage and access to equal facilities as their male counterparts. The images showed a very different tale. The men’s teams were built a state-of-the-art weight room complete with over a dozen full squat/bench racks, ample cardio equipment and multiple dumbbell racks going up in excesses of 100 pounds. The women were given 2 40-pound dumbbell stands and a bench. No racks, no bands, no cardio equipment.

The public outcry was so loud the NCAA has spent the last week reeling and “investigating” how these disparities could have happened. The response from the NCAA was so lackluster private corporations like orange theory volunteered to set up a weight room that these athletes deserved. Beyond the glaring disparities in the gear given out, beyond the wording on the twitter handle that spoke only to the men’s tournament, even beyond the weight room. I think the most upsetting difference is the difference in tests and efficacy of these tests given to the women’s athletes. The NCAA is supposed to be protecting and supporting our athletes and their health and the fact that they went with a cheaper test shown to be less effective for the women’s group breaks my heart. These athletes worked their butt off all year for this opportunity only to be treated as an afterthought. We need to hold these organizations accountable to demand they level the playing field. Today, I want you to take the time to turn on a game and support women’s sports. Whether that is the NCAA tournament or something else. Take the time to support fellow athletes.

As a side note for the people at home thinking you can beat these women in a game of basketball you are sorely mistaken. I have watched many an ego shattered by these incredibly skilled athletes. There is a reason they made it to the tournament and there is a reason they are playing collegiate basketball. The fact that this aside is even necessary is a part of the problem.

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