Chivalry is not dead: US Soccer’s unfair labor agreement

In a landmark agreement, members of the US men’s national soccer team agreed to pool World Cup prize money with the women’s team. Call it solidarity, call it charity, but please don’t call it equality.

Men should continue to earn more than women from their participation in the World Cup because the men’s tournament is much more profitable. The situation is not unique to the World Cup, but it applies to the national football leagues, basketball and most other professional sports.

Men’s sports make more money because people are usually more interested in watching men compete. There are some sports, such as figure skating and gymnastics, where female mathematics tend to attract more attention. This is why many of the highest-paid professional skaters are women. But the NBA is about 50 times more popular than the NBA, and there are no women’s professional leagues in the other major sports in America – football, baseball, and ice hockey.

Why do people care more about watching men compete? I suspect it has to do with the fact that male athletes are generally superior to women in most sports.

Years ago, when superstars Serena and Venus Williams played a low-profile tennis player on a training ground at the Australian Open, the man easily beat them. When the United States women’s soccer team played against a teenage boys’ team in 2017, the women’s team lost. Why did they even fight 14-year-olds in preparation for the World Cup? Presumably, the boys’ team from Dallas was considered an approximation of their international competition.

Biological differences in strength, speed, and endurance are the reason why most sports are separated by gender. If women could compete against men, women would not demand more money, but would demand an end to apartheid. Professional baseball used to be segregated by race; Black players were excluded from Major League Baseball (MLB) until about 75 years ago, preventing them from earning their fair share of revenue generated by “America’s Hobby.” This was a clear and peculiar example of inequality. In response, black athletes did not require MLB players to share their earnings with the Negro leagues; They demanded equal access to the MLB. It was a fair solution to systemic discrimination.

I belong to Finland, a country that is often considered one of the most gender equal in the world. In 2019, the Finnish Equality Ombudsman concluded that the FNFA did not discriminate against women by compensating men at a much higher rate. The decision was made by noting that only the men’s national team made money. Part of this profit was used to sponsor the women’s team, which turned out to be losing money to the organization. Apparently, Finnish society remains open to the theory that merit justifies unequal outcomes.

Although the groundbreaking labor convention in American football is hailed as a sign of progress, it sends the very wrong message to women and girls in America: If you can’t compete with men – if you can’t perform at the same level – you can always count On men’s equestrianism.

All that men ultimately earn from playing for the national team is only a fraction of what they earn as professional athletes in the Major League Soccer and European Championships. For now at least, their source of income depends on market forces and not on the court of public opinion. I suspect this is the main reason the men agreed, but reluctantly, to sign this contract. They just want this thing to actually go away.

Jukka Savolainen is a Writing Fellow at Heterodox Academy and Professor of Sociology at Wayne State University, where he teaches Sociology of Sport.

Leave a Comment