While watching a commercial for the WNBA, my cousin Joelle said, “Nobody cares about girls’ basketball.”
I looked at her, confused.
“Don’t you play basketball?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she said. “And I like the WNBA, but no one else cares.”
There was such a sadness in her eyes that I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that she was right.
The WNBA all-star veterans get paid no more than $107,000, which is significantly less than the NBA rookies making at least $490,000 warming the bench.
In soccer, the U.S. women’s national team won $2 million for winning the Women’s World Cup, and the U.S. men’s national team won $7 million more for losing in the round of 16 during the Men’s World Cup. This means that the men who have yet to win a World Cup got paid more for a loss than the women who have become the only team to win three World
In fact, the 3,000 people at a National Women’s Soccer League semi-final barely filled half of the Toyota Park Stadium that averages 15,000 people for a Major League Soccer regular season game.
The trends are the same in baseball and softball. National Pro Fastpitch players have a summer-long season that pays $6,000 on average, but the Major League Baseball season never seems to end, with no contract less than $500,000. Teams in National Pro Fastpitch have a team salary cap lower than a single player’s income in Major League Baseball.
The argument is often made that professional women’s sports teams don’t bring in the kind of revenue that the men do. True. But are they really given the chance?
National Women’s Soccer League games are usually just streamed live on YouTube, free, while Major League Soccer games air on the MLS channel or Fox Soccer that viewers pay for.
The Men’s World Cup was televised on ESPN, yet Fox showed most Women’s World Cup games on Fox Sports 1.
It is often argued that the Women’s World Cup should be advertised less because less people would watch it anyway. However, that’s not true.
In 2015, the Women’s World Cup final was the most watched soccer match in the United States, with nearly 26 million viewers.
There’s often less viewership for women’s sports because there’s little advertising, and there’s little advertising for fear of low viewership.
This has a significant impact.
Young girls, like Joelle, realize that few people watch the WNBA. Those girls have seen two women’s professional soccer leagues collapse, with the most recent one reduced to playing in college stadiums. They probably don’t even know that there is a professional softball league.
But what did we expect?
I didn’t realize that being a girl meant I wasn’t supposed to be good at sports until middle school when the boys stopped throwing me the football at recess.
I didn’t understand that most people didn’t enjoy watching women’s sports until high school and a friend told me that girls’ basketball was just
I didn’t start out in life with people telling me I wasn’t good enough because I was a girl. But slowly, the voices started, and grew louder.
A baseball player from my high school discredited softball, saying that “anyone could hit a ball if it was highlighter yellow and the size of grapefruit.” But let’s not forget the time that Jennie Finch struck out Albert Pujols.
I grew up wanting to be the next Kobe Bryant or David Beckham (unaware of Lisa Leslie or Mia Hamm), but the young girls of today can grow up wanting to be the next Skylar Diggins or Alex Morgan; they just need to know who those athletes are.
There are disparities between male and female athletes, no matter the level.
But this issue starts long before the college and professional leagues.
It starts with a 12-year-old-girl.
Do we expect her to love the game when everyone’s telling her that the boys’ games are more exciting? How can we wish for her to be a strong, confident, independent person if we’re telling her she’ll never be as good as the boys? Why do we hope she’ll be successful, yet never show her that she can be?
It’s too late for me to grow up knowing that, but my cousin is only 12; it’s not too late for her.
Flood her TV screen with women who show her that, in President Obama’s words, “to play like a girl means you’re a badass.” Show her that female athletes deserve to be celebrated. And please, show her that she’s worth as much as the boys.