News & Politics

AOC, 2020 Dems Seize on Complex World Cup 'Equal Pay' Issue

AOC, 2020 Dems Seize on Complex World Cup 'Equal Pay' Issue
Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY., arrives for orientation for new members of Congress, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

As the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) pulled off its fourth Women’s World Cup victory over the Netherlands on Sunday, the crowd broke out into chants of “Equal Pay!” The USWNT is suing the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) for gender discrimination, but the equal pay complaints against the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) are baseless.

USSF does not deny that male players make more money, arguing the the disparity is the result of labor contracts, not sexism, the Associated Press reported. Yet not all disparities trace back to discrimination.

FIFA awards a $30 million prize to the victorious women’s team and a $440 million prize to the victorious men’s team. This disparity actually represents a larger percentage of revenue paid to women than to men.

How does that work? As Forbes‘ Mike Ozanian explained, “the pay disparity is justified,” and actually proportionately favors women.

In 2015, when the U.S. Women’s National Team beat Japan to take the World Cup in Vancouver, the Women’s World Cup brought in almost $73 million in revenue, of which the players got 13 percent — $10 million. In 2010, the men’s World Cup in South Africa made almost $4 billion, of which 9 percent — $348 million — went to the players.

The men simply make more money for FIFA — boatloads more money. The men’s World Cup in Russia generated over $6 billion in revenue, with the participating teams sharing $400 million, less than 7 percent of the revenue. Meanwhile, the Women’s World Cup was expected to earn $131 million for the 2019-2022 cycle and give out $30 million to participating teams. That’s a whopping 22.9 percent!

In other words, the male players take home a smaller percentage of the money they earn for FIFA, even though they take home more money overall. The problem isn’t FIFA being sexist against women — in fact, the percentage gap suggests a preference for women or at least an effort to make sure women make more money. The problem is, global audiences prefer to watch men. In a free market, entertainment companies make more money as their audiences get larger.

The USSF may need to hear the “Equal Pay” chants and change its ways. As for FIFA, “Equal Pay” demands are far less justified.

Tennis legend Billie Jean King tweeted “Congratulations to the [USWNT] on their 4th World Cup win! These athletes have brought more attention, support, & pride to women’s sport than perhaps any other team in history. It is long past time to pay them what they rightly deserve.” She included the hashtag “Equal Pay.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted, “At this point we shouldn’t even be asking for [Equal Pay] for the [USWNT] – we should demand they be paid at least twice as much.” While USSF may need to change its ways, women athletes are paid three times as much as men by FIFA, in proportion to how much revenue they bring in.

“Congratulations to the [USWNT] on a record-breaking FOURTH world championship. You’re inspiring millions, including the next generation of champions, who should not have to fight for equal pay,” Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind. and a candidate for the 2020 Democratic nomination, tweeted.

Another 2020 Democrat, former HUD Secretary Julián Castro‏, predicted that USWNT is “poised for another huge victory for Equal Pay,” likely a reference to the USSF lawsuit.

Former Rep. Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke also congratulated the USWNT. “It’s time to celebrate everything they’ve accomplished — and pay them what they deserve,” he added.

“Congratulations, ladies! You make us so proud, on and off the field. Once again the [USWNT] has proven they’re the best team in the world—now let’s make sure they’re paid like it,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) tweeted.

Other candidates cheered the team without advocating Equal Pay. Many of these Democrats have a record of supporting “Equal Pay” legislation — and executive orders — based on the false premise that women on aggregate make less money than men due to widespread sexism. As the USWNT case against USSF demonstrates, discrimination in pay is already illegal.

“Congratulations to the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team on winning the World Cup!” President Donald Trump tweeted. “Great and exciting play. America is proud of you all!”

Wherever the USSF lawsuit ends up, the USWNT’s victory is a reason for all Americans to celebrate.

Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.