By Mollie Block and Isabel Corvington
SILVER SPRING, Md.– With the recent World Series, WNBA Championship, and the success of Blair’s own soccer teams, women’s and men’s sports come head to head once again. The disparities between men’s and women’s teams occur at a national and local level through media coverage and pay.
The World Series was an exciting time for Washington fans of all types. Bringing the culmination of the baseball season to Washington for the first time since 1933 is no small accomplishment, and the DMV celebrated accordingly.
During this period of celebration, Washington sports fans enjoyed bringing up the success that DC teams have had these past few years. Fans love to remember when the Capitals won the Stanley Cup in 2018 and the new era of DC sports teams winning that has seemed to be a trend recently.
The Nats and the Caps are not the only Washington sports teams that have been successful recently, the Washington Mystics, DC’s WNBA team, won their first championship in franchise history against the Connecticut Suns in October of 2019.
The Mystics and the WNBA in general are much less well known and celebrated in comparison to male leagues on average. Because of this, it does not come as much of a surprise to Mystics fans that the success of the Mystics is not as exciting for DC as the success of the Nats, even though both teams won their respective divisions for the first time in franchise history.
After the Nationals victory, the Capitals tweeted “DISCTRICT OF CHAMPIONS! 2018: #StanleyCup 2019: #WorldSeries Congratulations to the World @Nationals! Let’s Party. #ALLCAPS // #STAYINTHEFIGHT”.
This tweet blatantly ignored the Mystics Championship win and ignored the women’s success. Natasha Cloud, a point guard for the Mystics, called out the Caps by responding to the tweet with one of her own.
Cloud replied by saying: “God d*mn. Even more ignorant is we’re under the same damn company. Your social media people are weak af.” Cloud was referencing the fact that the Mystics, Capitals and Wizards, along with some other DC sports teams, are all under Monumental Sports & Entertainment.
However, this is not the only tweet that the Capitals published involving the Mystics and Nats wins. After the Mystic championship game, the Wizards, Nationals and Capitals twitter accounts all gave praise to the WNBA team, just as the Mystic’s account congratulated the Nationals on their win.
It’s not as if the Mystics and their accomplishment were completely ignored, Elena Delle Donne, the first female member of the 40-50-90 club and this year’s WNBA MVP, threw out the first pitch at a Nats game and dropped the puck at a Caps game. However, their story of victory faded much faster than the male DC teams and did not have as much recognition in the first place.
Not only does this trend of lower media coverage and involvement play out on a national level, but similar themes are seen with high school teams, including those from Montgomery Blair.
This fall, the girls and boys soccer teams both won regional championships; however, the girls’ team made it all the way to state semi-finals.
Alice, a sophomore on the team, noted that, “[the team] got a lot of mentions on infoflow, and over the announcements, but honestly not a lot of people knew about [our success].”
Even when the girls’ team proved their skill, people still came up with excuses for their victory, “people would say oh- you’re just in an easy division… it was annoying because we worked really hard, it would have been nice to get more recognition.”
Not only are the victories of Blair’s team put off, but many people discount the Mystics victory saying the WNBA isn’t a “real” league. The excuse that women’s sports are not as difficult is commonly used to discredit their victories and success.
The lack of acknowledgment and recognition for high schoolers like Alice and her teammates goes beyond their state championship journey. During their regular season she says, “there are always more people at the boys’ games.”
Attendance is not the only disparity between male and female sports teams.
Although this is not an issue pertinent to high school athletes just yet, something professional female athletes have to keep in mind is their paycheck. After the US Women’s National Soccer team (USWNT) won the world cup in both 2015 and 2018 their pay came into the spotlight. However, this wasn’t the first time their salaries were brought up.
In 2016 five players filed a complaint with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commision alleging that the US Soccer Federation paid the women’s team less than the men’s; team, engaging in wage discrimination. In March of 2019 the women’s team sued the US Soccer Federation in a class action lawsuit, once again allegding wage discrimination.
According to FiveThirtyEight in their respective world cup years (2014 and 2016), “top men’s players earned almost twice as much as the top women’s players from the federation,” despite the USWNT’s win and the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) not making it far at all.
Additionally, when directly comparing the salaries of Carlie Loyd, two time Olympic gold medalist and USWNT forward, and Clint Dempsey, seattle founders forward and midfielder, Loyd makes $240,019 while Dempsey makes, $428,022.
The USWNT may make less money, but they bring in much more money than the USMNT when it comes to revenue. According to the Washington Post, “The women’s team contributed close or more than half of the federation’s revenue from games since fiscal 2016.” Additionally, the women’s games after their 2015 world cup victory brought in $1.9 million more than the men’s games.
This trend of female players earning less than their male counterparts is not just present in soccer but reveals itself in the American basketball leagues as well, the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) .
According to CNBC, Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors is set to have the highest salary in the NBA for the 2019-2020 season with a paycheck of $40.2 million, not including endorsements or sponsorships.
The top paid WNBA player for the 2019 season, according to Investopedia, was DeWanna Bonner of the Phoenix Mercury’s who received $127,500 excluding any endorsements or sponsorships.
Of course, the salary of WNBA and NBA players cannot be discussed without taking into account the money each league makes. It is common knowledge that the NBA is more popular, with more fans, more expensive tickets and larger stadiums.
Therefore, it can be easily deduced that the NBA makes more as a franchise than the WNBA does. Because of this, the WNBA’s players will naturally be paid less.
Now the numbers make sense and we can all move along because women athletes are getting paid their fair share, right? Wrong.
Let’s forget numbers for a second. According to Forbes, NBA players on average are paid around 50% of their league revenue.
WNBA players receive less than 25% of their league revenue, making the percent of league revenue their male counterparts receive from the NBA 100% more than them.
Elene Delle-Donne, Mystics forward, says she is “waiting for the dollars to actually get behind female athletes”.
Because of the pay gap, some WNBA players are forced to play overseas in order to make ends meet. Even though basketball is what they love to do, the prospect of playing all year long is not as enticing as it sounds for professional women athletes.
Playing twelve months out of the year takes a toll on the players health, both physical and mental. When they are forced to be playing all year long, athletes do not get the rest their body needs and cannot take the off season to recover as well as spend time at home and with their family and friends.
Playing all year long every year without rest shortens the amount of time these women will be able to stay at the professional level and abbreviates their careers. Cloud says of the predicament, “we try to take care of our bodies the best we can, but in order to be financially stable we need to go overseas and play.”
A few WNBA players, including the Mystics own Elena Delle-Donne, make enough through sponsorships and other means to be able to avoid having to fly overseas but this is rare and most players look abroad to become financially stable.
For the players who decide not to play during their American off-season or limit their international playing time to under 90 days, the WNBA gives each team $50,000 to distribute among their players for work out of season.
In 2018, Mystics guard Kristi Toliver decided to accept the Wizards offer to become an assistant coach and stay home that winter.
However, as aforementioned, the Wizards and the Mystics are under the same company, Monumental Sports, and, according to the Washington Post, any pay Toliver got for her assistant coaching position had to come from the $50,000 given for all of the Mystics players who choose not to play abroad.
During the season Toliver started coaching, Delle-Donne, Toliver’s her MVP teammate, had already been promised much of the $50,000 given to their Mystics for all their players. Because of these restrictions on WNBA players off season pay, an assistant coaching job for the Wizards that would normally pay around $100,000 made Toliver only $10,000 for the entire mens season.
In 2014, according to the Washington Post, about 75% of WNBA players played on teams overseas during the off season of the American leagues. In any men’s league, a professional athlete’s salary is enough to keep them far, far away from having to consider needing any other source of income.
The Mystics were elated with their win and wanted to share it will all their fans. After the championship game, Mystics forward Aerial Powers told WUSA reporter reporter she was “happy for DC, we [are] all a family baby”.
However, because so many of these players have to travel overseas almost immediately after the end of the WNBA season, the well deserved Mystics players will not be able to fully celebrate with their fans until the Spring, which is when they will hold a victory parade.
Young girls everywhere are looking at the way that female athletes accomplishments are being devalued, underpaid and not recognized– and they’re internalizing that.