June had Soccer, along with Stonewall
This June, Stonewall turning 50 was exceptionally unbelievable and remarkably hard to believe. And I thank and celebrate every LGBTQ person and ally who was so fierce in the face of hate that night, and the next year, and the next. And I thank and celebrate those who carry that torch this year and in the years to come.
However, believe it or not, Stonewall wasn’t all that was happening during Pride Month. There were two other events, intertwined quietly, one boisterous and loud, one a little more grounded. But they belong to each other in the most fundamental ways.
First, the boisterous, aka the FIFA Women’s World Cup. As of press time, the United States made the quarter finals, having won over France and then bested England for a chance for the championship.
And next, gliding seamlessly, quietly, nearly below the radar, but fully on display with every kick of that ball, Title IX celebrated its birthday, turning 47.
And, while we think of Title IX as “the girls have to get an equal chance to play,” actually it’s the women, the girls, and the LGBTQ athletes bringing diverse, colorful cakes to this week’s party.
Yes, Title IX was first passed to address widespread discrimination of women and girls in all aspects of their education. But it was so forward-thinking that many people, even those who have benefitted, do not realize Title IX protects against gender-based violence, sexual harassment and assault, stalking, dating violence, and protections for LGBTQ, gender-non conforming, and pregnant or parenting students to ensure equal education opportunities for all.
Which brings us back to that quiet, impactful, support system of Title IX. Twenty of Canada’s 23 World Cup players competed or currently compete for Division I powerhouses. New Zealand brings their seven current or former NCAA players. So, when Canada and New Zealand played, 14 of the 22 starters (nine for Canada, five for New Zealand) come from NCAA Division I programs—programs that exist because Title IX paved that path.
And, that’s not all. This year, we have 34 (!) out, queer women competing in the FIFA Women’s World Cup, along with one coach (American coach Jill Ellis), and one trainer. Would we be here without Stonewall and Title IX? I doubt it.
As Megan Rapinoe answered when asked about playing during Pride Month, “Go gays! You can’t win a championship without gays on your team. It’s never been done before. That’s science right there.”
And while we laugh and cheer her truth, and let’s be honest, our truth, we all should remember that without Title IX and Stonewall, she might not be so “open” about it.
But, because there’s always a “but,” Title IX doesn’t protect women outside of school. And the women of the United States Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNST) are just one of the victims, being paid a pittance compared to the men.
Last week, the US women’s soccer team and US Soccer Federation agreed to begin mediation in the lawsuit brought by all 28 players against their employer alleging gender discrimination. The Guardian got hold of and analyzed the collective bargaining agreements and found that while US women’s soccer players have earned about $90,000 each in World Cup bonuses so far, if they were men, their pay would have been $550,000 per person.
Now, before we get riled up, US Soccer has defended this practice by saying the pay gap is “based on differences in the aggregate revenue generated by the different teams and/or any other factor other than sex.”
In plain English, their stance is men bring in more money, so they get paid more.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) now reports the USWNST games out-earned the male team from 2016 to 2018. That would be three year’s worth of revenue. The women’s team’s games generated $50.8 million compared to the men’s team’s games which made $49.9 million. The WSJ obtained US Soccer’s audited financial statements, and according to those, the women’s soccer team took home the World Cup in 2016, and “generated $1.9 million more than the men.”
So there is that.
But, in my opinion, the more important question is, why are we here? Why is it ever okay to pay women less than men for the same job? Why do we need to sue to be heard? Whatever happened to basic equal pay for equal work?
So maybe the time is now. Maybe the true legacy of Stonewall 50 and Title IX 47 is having a group of women and men who came of age understanding equal pay for equal work should not be radical, but common sense fair. It’s time to pass the fundamentally human Equal Rights Amendment.
So this year, maybe, you could skip the American football gear and buy a Rapinoe or Ali Kreiger football jersey, a Tobin Heath or Carli Lloyd mug, or an Alex Morgan or Crystal Dunn hat. Wear it out, wear it proud, and let the women of soccer today, and the ones to come, know we have their backs. ▼
Stefani Deoul is a television producer and author of the award-winning YA mystery series Sid Rubin Silicon Alley Adventures, with On a LARP and Zero Sum Game.