The patronizing slogan â€śDare to Shine!â€ť flashed across the world as the United States womenâ€™s national soccer team lifted its World Cup after a 2-0 victory against the Netherlands. Seeing as the team tore up the field, sweeping up not only a second consecutive World Cup victory but also the tournamentâ€™s individual prizes, the Americans certainly brought their A-game.
However, in labeling their victory - or the billion-viewer tournament - as a â€śdare to shineâ€ť moment, FIFA, soccerâ€™s global governing body, sounded the wrong note. The U.S. players did not dare to do anything; they were simply themselves.
From the moment the 28 players filed a gender discrimination lawsuit in March against their employer, the U.S. Soccer Federation, they have become champions of not only their sport but also of the fight for equality. So far, the two sides have agreed to mediate the lawsuit, which accuses U.S. Soccer of providing lower salaries and poorer conditions to its female players. This is the latest in a series of gender discrimination disputes in international sports.
Having now won four out of eight World Cup finals since the womenâ€™s competition originated in 1991, and four of the six Olympic gold medals awarded since 1996, the U.S. womenâ€™s team stands as one of the best soccer teams in history. In comparison, the menâ€™s national team has never won a World Cup and failed even to qualify for the 2018 tournament. The last Olympic medal won by the menâ€™s national team was in 1904.
If it were just about the numbers, maybe the womenâ€™s team would be facing fewer hurdles. Sportswear giant Nike reported that the U.S. womenâ€™s team home jersey has become the No. 1 soccer jersey - male or female - ever sold on the companyâ€™s website in one season. According to The Wall Street Journal, the national womenâ€™s teamâ€™s games have generated more revenue than the menâ€™s since their World Cup victory in 2015.
Despite this, FIFA will pay female World Cup teams a total of just $30 million, a meager award compared with the $440 million the 2022 menâ€™s teams will take home in prizes. Sundayâ€™s roaring crowd chanted â€śequal payâ€ť as the women collected their medals.
While the fulfillment of that demand would be but one step in combating a long history of gender discrimination, it is a critical one.
U.S. Soccer needs to listen and close this unforgivable gap.