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Megan Rapinoe on Pay Inequality in Women’s Sports: ‘It’s Bulls**t’

U.S. Women’s National soccer star Megan Rapinoe isn’t likely to stop discussing pay inequality in women’s sports anytime soon. For that matter, she isn’t likely to stop pissing people off anytime soon either. If you think she doesn’t care, you’re dead wrong. In a candid new interview with Glamour, she makes it clear she gives “all the f**ks.” And that’s a good thing because there’s still a lot of hell to be raised before we get close to reaching gender parity.

ICYMI, 28 members of the world champion USWNT, sued the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) back in March over gender discrimination. Just before Rapinoe’s interview mediation between the two factions seemed to dissolve, meaning they’ll more than likely have to fight it out in court. Understandably, the development doesn’t sit well with Rapinoe. “At the crux of everything is that when we play a game — win the game, lose the game, tie the game, whatever — what we’re asking is that we’ll have the same opportunity to make the same amount of money,” she said. “We should be treated equally.”

That was precisely what the crowd at this summer’s World Cup in France chanted for when Rapinoe and the rest of her team took home their fourth world title (and back-to-back World Cup wins at that). Rapinoe tied for most goals with six: more than the entire U.S. Men’s National Team combined scores in each of their three most recent World Cup efforts. Still, Rapinoe is, at her core, a team player. While some people may mistake her confident and outspoken nature as unfeeling, Rapinoe says that’s not accurate. “I’m the antithesis of no f**ks given — I give all the f**ks. I just feel that it’s my responsibility to make the world a better place,” she explained, adding, “We all have that responsibility.”

And can anyone really deny Rapinoe cares about the greater good? She’s one of the most articulate and passionate champions of gender parity. “We are always having to qualify our accomplishments,” she told Glamour. “We always have to be like: Yes, we won, and we’re inspiring a generation, and we’re touring the country, and we’re social activists, and we’re really marketable, and, and, and! We just did something amazing. Winning the World Cup is very difficult — it’s arduous, it’s a long cycle, it’s hard. And then on top of it, we inspired a movement that transcended the sport. Now we have to come home and fight a lawsuit to convince everyone that we’re worth a little bit more money? That’s bulls**t.”

She’s not wrong, by any stretch of the imagination. Not just about the fact that the USWNT undeniably deserves to make as much as the men in their sport (who are far less accomplished), but about the fact that gender inequality is still an issue that needs to be pulled out into the light and put on display.

At the espnW: Women + Sports Summit held this week in Newport Beach, one particular panel seemed to generate major buzz: “The Value of Professional Female Athletes: Equal Play, Equal Pay.” During the panel, U.S. Women’s National Ice Hockey Team player Kendall Coyne spoke candidly about the pay gap between male and female players in her sport. Ready to be astonished (or, more pointedly, appalled)? Coyne noted that she was the highest-paid player on her team, making $7,000, while her male counterparts banked upwards of $15.9 million. For Coyne, being a professional hockey player and member of the national team meant having a full-time day job.

Nneka Ogwumike spoke about how, as the WNBA Players Association President, she uses her influence to advocate for pay equality in sports. She hopes that it has a ripple effect, permeating other fields. “We are icons, we are role models, we turn the dial in so many ways that reach outside of just being on the court and on the field, that it’s imperative for us — it’s a duty for us — to come out and let everyone know that we are worthy and we understand what we deserve,” she said.

The reality is women still make less than men, spanning practically every industry. In 2018, the top WNBA salary was $117,500, compared to $37.4 million in the NBA. In the USWNT lawsuit filed against the USSF, it states that female WNT players would earn a maximum of $99,000 per game, compared to an average of $263,320 per game for similarly situated male WNT players. And, in the workforce, female, full-time, year-round female workers still only make 82 cents for every dollar earned by men (the disparity is even deeper for women of color).

So, yeah, Rapinoe doesn’t care if you like her. “That’s not how you inspire people,” she said. “That’s not the kind of personality that affects change — you always have to buck up against society.”

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