By Senator Lena C. Taylor
Column written along with Sen. Taylor’s intern Lauren Sorenson
On July 7, the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team contributed to their already long list of accomplishments by winning their third World Cup title. While serving as an inspiration and source of pride for us all, some players exercised their rights to call attention to the issues facing themselves and their female fans. The women’s U.S. team won their second consecutive tournament.
For their hard work, they will get $4 million dollars from FIFA, the international soccer governing body. However, the men’s French team received $38 million for winning last year. It’s something wrong with that picture and some players are calling out.
Most notably, team Co-Captain Megan Rapinoe has been very vocal about standing up for pay equality. She has also been critical in challenging Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” moniker as “harking back to an era that wasn’t great for everyone. It might’ve been great for a few people.” And if timing is everything, the remarks came during the teams run for soccer’s most coveted title. Not to be outdone, Trump and his supporters shot back at Rapinoe. But it was one comment in particular, from Fox News host Jesse Watters, that struck an unbelievable cord. While expressing that his thoughts about it being unpatriotic for Rapinoe to speak against the President of the United States, Watters took it a step farther. Watters equated players exercising their 1st Amendment right to free speech with being a disqualifier for them getting equal pay for equal work.
“The point is…that the women are not helping their case by their behavior,” Watters said. “If you go out and you disparage the president and you act in unpatriotic ways and then complain about not getting paid equally, well, what do you think is going to happen?” he asked.
Well, I have a question for Watters…what does that have to do with the price of tea in China?
In 1963, women earned an average of 59 cents for every dollar that men earned according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). It has been more than 50 years since the passage of the Equal Pay Act by Congress, nationally mandating that men and women receive “equal pay for equal work.”
It is 2019 and this pay gap has only been shortened by 20 cents! Women earn a measly 79 cents for every dollar earned by men, a rate that becomes more heinous when looking at pay earned by Black and Latino women. If this pace continues, it will take 40 years for white women to be paid equally, but Black women face 100 more years of inequality and Hispanic women will wait 205 years (according to IWPR).
Half of the American workforce and half of family breadwinners face pay inequity. Where is the patriotism and the greatness in that? Closing the gender pay gap would mean cutting poverty rates and adding roughly $513 billion to the economy.
Rapinoe is forced to use her platform to fight for equal pay for women, because people like Trump and Watters won’t use theirs. But we’ve heard it before. Remember LeBron James being told to “shut up and dribble” by Fox host Laura Ingraham when he discussed Donald Trump. It is easy to insist that athletes do nothing but entertain us when your American reality is not crippled by systemic inequality. None of us should have to choose between the 1st Amendment and being paid equal pay for equal work.
You go Megan Rapinoe!!