On Tuesday, U.S. senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) offered her own take on the U.S. women’s soccer team’s 13-0 thrashing of the overmatched Thailand team at the World Cup: because of the lopsided score they should be paid as much if not more than the men’s team. Gillibrand wrote, “Here’s an idea: If you win 13-0—the most goals for a single game in World Cup history—you should be paid at least equally to the men’s team.”
Gillibrand’s pitch is not exactly new when it comes to women’s sports. An article in Business Insider in 2015 asserted, “Most of us have been socialized to accept men’s sports as dominant, and somehow automatically more interesting. The problem is that once society has internalized this falsehood — and let’s face it, it’s a falsehood that’s millennia in the making — it’s not so easy to correct it. Women have been fighting for decades, centuries, to be seen as equals to men both on the playing field and off of it.”
An article in Health in 2017 complained about the disparity between the earnings the U.S. women’s soccer team made and the earnings of their male counterparts. The article stated:
Sadly, soccer isn’t the only sport where women see a wage gap (along with all women in the U.S., we would be remiss not to point out). According to Politico, the minimum salary in the WNBA was $37,950 in 2013, with a team salary cap (i.e. the total team salary limit) of $913,000. Meanwhile, the lowest salary in the NBA for the same year was $490,180, and the team salary cap was $58.7 million.
To link the lopsided score, as Gillibrand did, with an increase in earnings does seem strange. And the reaction of the U.S. women’s soccer team after it was clear that Thailand was hugely overmatched created a firestorm of criticism, as did team member Megan Rapinhoe’s refusal to join in singing the national anthem.
The women on the soccer team, determined to score as many goals as they could because the number of goals scored has an effect on their World Cup chances, celebrated wildly even after the disparity in the score was ballooning and the Thai team was in tears. That precipitated an uproar among some who witnessed the game, as The Daily Mail reported.
Former Canadian team player and current TSN analyst Kaylyn Kyle commented on the TSN broadcast, “As a Canadian we would just never ever think of doing something like that … For me it’s disrespectful, it’s disgraceful.” Former Canadian player Clare Rustad echoed on the broadcast, “I just think they could have won with some humility and grace, and they just couldn’t manage to do that. Celebrating goals later in the game like this is just completely unnecessary. What is this?” Kyle added, “They’re the No. 1 team in the world and for me, I’m disgusted, honestly.”
Kyle said she received death threats after her comments, prompting her to tweet:
To the people sending me death threats, let me set the record STRAIGHT! I never once said to never score as many goals as you can in a World Cup!!! PLEASE WATCH FULL SEGMENT! I said the exact opposite ITS THE WORLD CUP!!! You score as many as you can and don’t take the foot off the gas pedal! I did say I thought it was excessive and disrespectful the goal celebrations of the American team once the score hit 8-0. Everyone is allowed there (sic) opinions towards my thoughts 100% but please leave the death threats! I’m a big girl and love a good debate but there’s no need for this in this already crazy world! Love you all.
Former American international Taylor Twellman stated, “Celebrating goals (like #9) leaves a sour taste in my mouth like many of you. Curious to see if anyone apologizes for this postgame … Not sure why the #USWNT is ‘wasting’ any of their set plays when the score is 3-0. Bury (Thailand) then move on but don’t use anything that could be needed in future games.”
Rob Stone, the host of the Fox Sports World Cup coverage on American television, agreed, saying, “This got humiliating at some point. It just became an exercise in target practice. You know what I wanted to do? Pull it back, knock it around.’
Former US player Abby Wambach disagreed, “For all that have issue with many goals: for some players this is their first World Cup goal, and they should be excited. Imagine it being you out there. This is your dream of playing and then scoring in a World Cup. Celebrate. Would you tell a men’s team to not score or celebrate?”
Fox Sports presenter Aly Wagner added: “It’s a World Cup. You score, you celebrate. This is a dream for these players.”
Meanwhile, Rapinhoe, who had told Yahoo Sports in May, “’I’ll probably never put my hand over my heart. I’ll probably never sing the national anthem again,” was slammed for not singing the national anthem.