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Equality in soccer
4:0. This is the ratio of world cup titles between the U.S. women's soccer team and the U.S. men's soccer team. Women’s sports, including soccer, have faced differences and inequality for decades now. The women's national team has won 4 World Cups, while the men’s team have won zero, but regardless of the success the USWNT (U.S. Women’s National Team) has had, they still get treated lower than their male counterparts.
The USWNT fought this inequality, led by veteran players like Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, and Carli Lloyd. It has been a long, treacherous fight that has been argued for nearly 6 years. In February 2022, Rapinoe and her USWNT teammates were able to receive an equal pay settlement after receiving a salary that was much less than their male counterparts for years. Kristine Lilly, U.S. soccer hall of fame player, played for the USWNT from 1987-2010. Lilly played in 5 World Cups and is the youngest and oldest player to score a WC goal, but despite this she wasn’t able to experience the equal pay settlement that is currently happening.
To put this into comparison and show the level of disparity that existed: the USWNT brought in $20 million in revenue during the 2015-2016 season, but despite this, they were still paid four times less than the men’s team. Then in 2019, the Women’s World cup was the most-watched soccer match broadcast in English for men or women in U.S. history. There were 1.2 billion viewers and they were still paid less.
The equal pay settlement consists of a $24 million payment in an attempt to equalize pay. The payment will be distributed to current and some former USWNT players. U.S. Soccer then promised or pledged to equalize pay between the men and women’s teams for all situations such as the World Cup. The fight for equality is not done yet as USWNT players won’t stop until they see the money in their hands and promises being kept. Carlos Cordeiro was the previous President of the U.S. Soccer Federation and has resigned in 2020 due to the equal pay lawsuit. Cordeiro resigned after the USSF claimed in a lawsuit document that female soccer players “do not perform equal work requiring skill [and] effort” compared to male players who have more “speed and strength.”
Flagler College is home to both male and female soccer teams. Fortunately, the two teams don’t have much of a disparity besides the fact that it isn’t easy to be a female in sports. There are preconceived ideas and stereotypes such as ‘you run like a girl’ that female athletes have to experience throughout their careers. If you search on Flagler College’s newspaper website The Gargoyle, there is not one singular article about women's soccer. There is a problem with promoting women's sports at Flagler College. Campus-wide sports announcements usually feature the men's sports teams.
Although some equity exists between these teams, there is still growth potential in promotion efforts. The women’s soccer team at Flagler isn’t talked about enough or promoted.
Phoebe Licence, a junior midfielder and number 12 for the Saints, has been playing soccer for 17 years and is originally from England. Licence finds the equal pay settlement to be admirable and admires their efforts.
“I think it's just knowing that if you fight for what you believe in and stuff that it helps a lot and this has been a big step in how women will be treated in sports professionally,” Licence said with thoughts of her own future soccer career in mind.
The equal pay settlement is a big step for women's soccer and women's sports in general. There is still so much more to accomplish to end inequality. The equal pay settlement doesn’t just affect pro players but also female players at all levels including Flagler women's soccer team. The settlement affects them because it motivates younger generations of players to continue following the path to equality. These players look up to the U.S. women’s soccer stars.
Ashley Martin, the Flagler women’s soccer team’s head coach, has been coaching soccer since he was just 17 years old. As a coach who has experience coaching for 23 years, Martin is supportive of equity in women's soccer, especially as a father. Martin had coached female soccer players for 4 years at Slippery Rock University prior to his current 8 seasons at Flagler.
“I've been in and around Flagler athletics for more than 15 years now and so you know it's not something that we deal with here, fortunately. I’m a parent of two little girls and you know I want them to be afforded the same opportunities as if I had sons,” Martin said.
Flagler soccer players don’t see inequalities because they are protected by Title IX and the NCAA, but who protects female athletes who don’t have the privilege of having this protection?
Although, Coach Martin has been around Flagler athletics for awhile and thinks otherwise.
“I don't think that there's any sort of issues here with gender and equity but I've been here a long time. I mean I played here, I'm a Flagler grad,” Martin said.
The inequality between men’s and women’s soccer at Flagler College is not necessarily apparent because it seems to be “swept under the carpet” because of the contracts of protection that they are under. There will, for the foreseeable future, be inequalities between men and women because of how society has been structured. Just because people can't see inequalities because of these protections doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
Title IX is reaching its 50-year anniversary this year and protects individuals from experiencing gender inequity in education and athletics.
Jessica Kobryn, the Title IX coordinator for Flagler College, was a division I female athlete in college. Kobryn has been the coordinator for 4 ½ years. The way Title IX handles equity is different than what someone not directly involved would think.
“Basically, the way sports works is that it just has to be equitable somewhere. So, this is kind of a super oversimplified example but like if the women's basketball team takes a trip to New York City, then just another men's team has to have the opportunity to take a trip somewhere. It doesn't have to be the men's basketball team. It could be the golf team or the tennis team but they just have to provide that opportunity to both genders when it comes to sports,” Kobryn said.
An equality that may not be recognized is how hard it is to be a female athlete. Stereotypes, labels, and rude phrases are shouted at sporting events and written in newspaper headlines. Society has this idea that women can't do what men can do which isn’t true.
Licence is affected by these acts as a female soccer player.
“I think it’s upsetting to hear honestly,” Licence said.
Since Licence’s future is on the line and if equality doesn’t progress then she may be targeted by some of these phrases in the future which is why the USWNT is fighting for equality.
The USWNT has been more successful than the men. At Flagler College, both the men’s and women’s team have won 4 Peach Belt Conference championships.
Females in sports face challenges that no athlete should have to experience. The USWNT needs all the support they could get including help from society to continue the journey towards ending disparities. Talking about the problems and spreading awareness is a great way to help this movement. Female athletes deserve to be treated equally and provided with the tools necessary to succeed not only in sports but in their lives too. Yet, granted the existence of gender inequality, women’s sports have improved enormously in the last decade as they seek full equality for future generations of women and women athletes.
Gabby Alfveby, author
Current Flagler College student, writer, and athlete. gabby is also the journalist intern for STArt Now's partner, Narrow Magazine
Kathryn hennessy, photographer
Kathryn is a current Flagler College student and freelance photographer as well as Narrow Magazines additional intern