Respect Equality

As US men’s and women’s soccer teams reach equal pay agreement, other sports lag far behind in pay parity

Professional male athletes consistently out-earn their female counterparts.
United States’ Megan Rapinoe lifts up the trophy after winning the Women’s World Cup final soccer match between US and The Netherlands at the Stade de Lyon in Decines, outside Lyon, France, in July 7, 2019 (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File)

Story at a glance

  • The U.S. Soccer Federation on Wednesday announced a pay equity agreement with the national unions for the men’s and women’s soccer teams.

  • While the announcement is a step in the right direction in closing the nation’s gender pay gap, professional female athletes in other sports are still underpaid compared to their male counterparts.

  • Changing America looked at four popular sports in the U.S. and the pay disparities between their male and female athletes.

In a historic first, the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) on Wednesday announced it had reached a pay equity agreement with the men’s and women’s soccer teams, making it the first American national governing body to promise to pay its male and female athletes equally.

The USSF in a statement said it had reached two new collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) with the national unions of both the men’s and women’s teams. Each team will now receive “identical compensation” for all competitions — including the FIFA World Cup — and are guaranteed the same commercial revenue-sharing mechanism, according to the agreements, which run through 2028.

“This is a truly historic moment. These agreements have changed the game forever here in the United States and have the potential to change the game around the world,” U.S. Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone said Wednesday in a statement.

The agreements also have the potential to bring about massive changes in other women’s sports across the nation, most of which have massive gender wage gaps.

Basketball

According to an Adelphi University analysis of average player compensation, the average male professional basketball player in the NBA made roughly $8.3 million in 2019, while their female counterparts in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) made an average of more than $75,000 that year.

Like most spaces, basketball’s gender pay gap is widest at the top. This year, Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry made more than $40 million, while Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi — the highest-paid player in the WNBA this year, according to Statista — made just over $228,000.

For the 2021-22 season, the minimum salary for NBA players was just north of $925,000.

Baseball

According to the Adelphi analysis, athletes for the National Pro Fastpitch League (NPF) in 2019 made $6,000, while professional MLB players earned, on average, more than $4 million.

Golf

Last year, a BBC study into prize money in sport found that golf had one of the highest gender pay gaps in all of professional athletics. In all three of golf’s traditional mixed Majors — The Open, U.S. Open and PGA Championship — men’s first place prizes were higher than women’s by more than $1 million.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Women’s Open Golf Tournament announced an effort to shrink that gap by increasing its purse to $10 million, nearly doubling last year’s $5.5 million award. The tournament has pledged to raise the prize fund to $12 million over the next five years.

Even so, the gender pay gap between male and female golfers remains enormously large. In 2021, U.S. golfer Tiger Woods brought home close to $121 million, while Korean pro golfer Jin Young Ko, the highest paid player in the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), made just over $3.5 million. U.S. golfer Nelly Korda took home $2.3 million last year.

Tennis

Professional tennis boasts one of the lowest gender pay gaps in all of sports, but an analysis of player compensation last year found that male tennis players on average still out-earn their female counterparts by more than 34 percent.

Women’s tennis players Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka were named by Forbes this year as two of the top 50 highest-paid athletes in the world, but they were the only women to make the cut.