U.S. women’s soccer team captain Megan Rapinoe appeared on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” on Tuesday to discuss her team’s World Cup victory and demands for “equal pay.”
But the feminist winger ended up accidentally making a strong case for why the men’s national team players deserve to get paid more than than their female counterparts.
Host Rachel Maddow noted that after the U.S. Women’s National Team bested the Netherlands 2-0 Sunday to bring home the World Cup Trophy, the crowd at Stade de Lyon erupted in a chant of “Equal pay! Equal pay!” Maddow then claimed that fans can do “to support that fight.”
Rapinoe – who scored the two goals of the final match and was named MVP – responded by urging MSNBC viewers to purchase the products that women’s soccer has to offer, from game tickets to merchandise.
“Fans can come to games. Obviously, national team games will be a hot ticket, but we have nine teams in the NWSL,” she said, referring to the National Women’s Soccer League. “You can go to your league games. You can support that way. You can, you know, buy players’ jerseys. You can lend your support in that way. You can tell your friends about it. You can become season ticker holders. I think in terms of that, that’s the easiest way for fans to get involved.”
Basic economics, “yada, yada”
By endorsing the logic of the market, Rapinoe doubled-down on a case that she and the U.S. Women’s National Team have been making for awhile now: That they have earned the same pay and status as men, it’s time for that to be recognized.
However, where that claim has fallen short, the women have appealed to the principles of social justice, suggesting that they deserve equal pay simply because they are women. Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Rapinoe said that the relatively paltry prize money for the Women’s World Cup is “certainly not fair,” and should be doubled and then quadrupled.
“I think everyone is ready for this conversation to move to the next step. I think we’re done with the ‘Are we worth it? Should we have equal pay? Is it, you know, is the market the same,’ yada, yada. Everyone is done with that – fans are done with that, players are done with that, in a lot of ways I think sponsors and everyone is done with that,” she said. “Let’s get to the next point of what’s next, how do we support women’s federation and women’s programs around the world. What can Fifa do to do that, what can we do to support the leagues around the world?”
Rapinoe’s conflicting arguments also feature in a March lawsuit that the women’s national team filed against the U.S. Soccer Federation. The players claim that they bring in more non-World Cup revenue than the men, and yet to get paid less because of sexism. But they also insist that the federation compensate them for the fact that Fifa pays out much larger bonuses to men than to women for the World Cup.
The federation counters that it pays the teams according to separate collective bargaining agreements, which it denies are discriminatory. According to the available data, the women are indeed generally paid less than the men. But they enjoy guaranteed salaries whereas the men are only paid bonuses based on performance.
The woman have also brought in more money from games in the past few years, in part because they have played many more of them. But the men’s team has historically generated millions of dollars more, and may still contribute more to sponsorship revenue, which accounts for about half of the federation’s income.
When it comes to the World Cup, the federation denies responsibility for Fifa’s financial decisions, which are actually relatively generous to women. The men’s tournament is just way more popular and lucrative.
In 2018, the World Cup earned $6 billion, with 7 percent going to the participating men’s teams. France walked away with $38 million for winning. By contrast, this year’s women’s World Cup is expected to earn $131 million. The U.S. women got $4 million of the $30 million prize.
Although the U.S. Soccer Federation collects the money, it passes the bulk of it on to the players, regardless of whether they are men or women.
What Rachel Maddow didn’t say to Megan Rapinoe
All these numbers leave Rapinoe and crew with a choice. They can claim the federation is paying them less than they earn and give up a World Cup raise. Or they can claim that as women they are entitled to a cut of other people’s earnings and drop the pretense of caring about capitalism, not to mention basic fairness.
They can’t honestly hold both views at once. And yet, they apparently do, and liberal America isn’t going to stop them.
Swept up by the women’s on-field dominance – as well as its feminist, LGBT and anti-Trump ethos – much of the media has cheered on their equal pay campaign with the same fervor as the crowd in France.
Meanwhile, leading Democratic presidential candidates have competed with each other for the status of No. 1 fan.
Sen. Kamala Harris, for one, urged her Twitter followers last month: “Let’s not forget the fight off the field,” and linked to a New York Times Magazine article about the team’s lawsuit.
As the U.S. Women’s National Team takes the field against Thailand today, the players are also fighting to be paid equally. Let’s not forget the fight off the field. It’s time we pay our USWNT equally. https://t.co/KHqBcFB9RW
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) June 11, 2019
If the California Democrat makes it all the way to the White House, the women may be able to fire their lawyers. Harris has promised to simply outlaw the “gender pay gap.”