The Rose City Riveters have stood up for equality and different social issues a number of times over our short 3-year history. Now we have an opportunity to stand up again.
We stand behind the United States Women’s National Team as they strive for equal pay for equal play as compared to their male counterparts in the United States Soccer Federation organization. Their fight is on the front page of most news websites today. It is a fight that has been going on for decades, most notably in the last 3 years as the USWNT was not able to establish a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with USSF after their epic World Cup performance in 2011.
For the first time in history, in FY2016, the USWNT is on pace to out-earn the USMNT. This is huge for a number of reasons, the primary one being that the counterargument for their pay structure has always been “look at who brings home the bacon” (pun not intended).
The second part of this issue has a lot to do with sponsorship and winnings, because when a team wins a tournament, those winnings tend to go to the Federation, who then pay out their own predetermined bonuses. USSF bonuses are structured differently for the MNT and WNT simply because a) the size of the winnings differ, and b) the WNT players are salaried while the men are only being paid for their participation with the team. The simple way to look at this is that there is the potential for the Federation to generate more revenue from earnings from men’s tournaments because the prize money is greater. But that is a shallow way of looking at this. Why is the prize money greater? It is because there are, generally, more sponsors and TV deals and coverage for these tournaments.
Sponsorship is a bit more convoluted, because most sponsors are Federation sponsors. For example, USSF pocketed $26M in FY2015 from a Nike sponsorship. The Federation does not report out what it does with that sponsorship money, though it did note that in FY2015, Nike gave them an additional $250K as a men’s World Cup bonus. My question here is: Why do sponsors sign on? Is it to market a particular squad? Should USSF have a responsibility to distribute the resources as the sponsor intends? So, I’ll be interested to see if there is a specific line item bonus in the FY2016 report.
But I digress. When we take the sponsorship and winnings piece out of the equation, and look at the earnings for the two senior teams, 2016 is an epic year for the women. They now have the data that stands by their growing popularity and their growing support, and the consumer has voted with their pocketbook. This, to me, is huge.
We stand behind women not being satisfied with the status quo, especially when the playing field is not even. We stand behind these women as they make a historic move toward equality in all aspects of their job.
But we do not just stand behind the USWNT.
We stand behind the NWSL with the promise that the growth of the league will lead to better wages for all players, not just the big names in the league, The Federation players. We stand up for those unpaid amateurs who show up day in and day out for practice and meetings, hoping for a chance to make an impact and earn a contract.
For too long, female athletes have had to pursue their dreams as more of a hobby. They are unable to earn a living wage for themselves or their families, because no one watches their sport. Because no one is sponsoring their sport. Because they do not have a big money-making machine enabling them to train and condition full-time for their sport.
We have shown up, for three years now, to prove the contrary. We are watching your sport. We are buying the sponsors’ products. We want to help develop that machine that will hopefully enable future NWSL players to be able to train and condition full-time for their team. We stand behind the players.
With the inception of the NWSL and then Merritt Paulson bringing a team to Portland, we have all become very aware of the issues surrounding women and sports. Not that we weren’t aware of them before, but now we want to pass a hat for them, we want to gift them grocery store gift cards, we want to help them every day. We help support them through GoFundMe campaigns. We network to try to find them reasonably priced, reliable vehicles. We realize this is grass roots, and we know that this is going to grow into something that is so much more.
I want to support a league that is able to generate revenue and also pay its players a living wage. I want a league that plays entirely in soccer-specific stadiums. I want a league that has a TV deal and national sponsors. I want a league that is attracting world-class players as much as they are developing players in the local communities. I know that our current league status is in place to create a sustainable format for growth, but I do not want this league to consider its current status a success. I want the ownership group, the coaches, the general managers, and the players to continue to strive for improvements. I want every player who steps on the pitch in a Thorns kit to be earning above the poverty line.
I stand by these players because I see all of these things as viable. I stand with the Rose City Riveters because I know that we will not accept the status quo to remain constant. We are always striving for better, and we want to support the players as they do the same, both on the pitch and off.
I stand by the USWNT because I am the consumer and I know that my dollar is equal to yours. I know that today’s action is just the first wave in a tsunami of change for these athletes, and will have a significant impact on the way our Thorns are compensated and developed in the future. Hopefully, in the very near future.