Apparel Company Gifts USWNT $1 Million For Equal Pay — Here’s What The Olympians Are Actually Making

Title Nine, an athletic apparel company, contributed $1 million to the USWNTPA, the most the organization has ever received.

Athletic apparel company Title Nine gifted the USWNTPA $1 million on Wednesday — the largest sum the players association has ever received — saying it’s to help solve the pay gap between the men’s and women’s national soccer teams. It’s an awesome gesture similar to when LUNA Bar made a large donation in 2019. What does it really mean for how much the USWNT is paid for the Olympics? Let’s dig in.

A couple of years ago, LUNA Bar gave the USWNT players $718,750 before the 2019 Women’s World Cup on Equal Pay Day. That allowed each player to receive $31,250, which by LUNA Bar’s numbers was the difference in pay between U.S. men’s and women’s soccer players at a World Cup. 

On Wednesday, Title Nine took a similar approach, albeit one not backed by a huge company like Clif Bar. A small, woman owned-and-operated company out of Northern California, Title Nine is contributing $1 million “directly to the USWNTPA to help close the pay gap for the six international games they are expected to play this summer.” In addition, Title Nine will match up to $250,000 in contributions made to the team through a “Kick In For Equal Pay” campaign, bringing the potential total donation to $1.25 million, which is what Title Nine says is the gap between what the men and women make over six matches (numbers we’re unable to verify for reasons listed below). 

Women’s sports have long lagged behind men’s sports in the key area of funding, so this is awesome to see from Title Nine. It all started when CEO and founder Missy Park watched the “LFG” documentary and became “ticked off.”

“This women’s soccer team has dominated the sport like no other, they really are a national treasure,” Park told Reuters in a video interview. “And watching that documentary, the U.S. Soccer Federation are paying them like second-class citizens. I was just like, ‘wow.’”

Park, who named her company after the 1972 Title IX legislation, said she didn’t want anything in return for her company’s donation — no sponsorships, no endorsements. She just wants to help the USWNT players close the wage gap, which by her numbers show the women were paid $64 million less than the men would have been paid for their performances from 2015-2019, in which time the USWNT won two Women’s World Cups.

“Money matters, and solving the pay gap is going to be a team sport,” Park said. 

USWNTPA executive director Becca Roux pointed out the impact such a statement can make.

“Brands have significant power to impact the public dialogue on this important issue and we applaud Title Nine for stepping up and leading the effort to support the players and women in every industry,” Roux said. 

There’s no doubt the gender pay gap is real and a real problem in the U.S. (and around the world). Current calculations show women make 82 cents for every dollar a man makes, with the disparity far greater for women of color. It’s closing (two years ago it was 80), but not quickly enough. 

For years, the USWNT has fought its own federation for better pay, a fight that began in 1999 and continues to this day. While U.S. Soccer has done better than most federations in supporting its women’s team, it hasn’t been enough, resulting in companies making grandiose donations to both close the gaps and get a little publicity on the side. 

We’ve discussed countless times how complicated the pay numbers in dispute are, and like any stat they can be warped and skewed countless ways. I can understand some of U.S. Soccer’s arguments and why some aspects of the USWNT’s lawsuits have been thrown out, even if I disagree with them

As the dispute drags on, neither side is really winning. USWNT haters (and they are legion) will never be convinced that women deserve equal pay so long as the men’s game brings in more money (ignoring the reasons why the men’s game brings in more money). USWNT supporters will never be convinced their players are being paid fairly until things change. U.S. Soccer has made itself look bad — like, really bad — in its fight to not pay the women more. You feel everyone would benefit from just reworking a CBA that everyone can agree on, but it’s always more complicated than that.

What we can agree on is how the USWNT is paid for playing in the Olympics, and it’s not in free LUNA Bars or Title Nine apparel.

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How USWNT Is Paid For Olympics

Title Nine’s $1 million contribution is awesome and capitalizes on the fact the USWNT is front-and-center for these Olympics trying to become the first team to win Olympic gold after winning the World Cup. But timing it around the Olympics might create a bit of a false narrative just because of how American soccer players are paid to compete in the Olympics.

The main thing to point out is that it’s impossible to have a direct comparison between men’s and women’s Olympic soccer payments. While the women’s Olympic soccer tournament is a full-fledged, major international tournament, the men’s competition is a U-23 competition. Additionally, the USMNT didn’t even qualify for the Olympics. The U-23 USMNT doesn’t actually have a CBA with U.S. Soccer, so any compensation would have come from outside of the USSF even if they had qualified. 

So how does U.S. Soccer pay the USWNT for the Olympics? Here’s a quick breakdown.

Each player who helps the U.S. qualify for the Olympics receives $25,000, with another $25,000 for making the Olympic roster. Should the U.S. medal, each player will receive a bonus — $25,000 for bronze, $55,500 for silver and $100,000 for gold. Additionally, players will be paid for a four-game, post-Olympic tour on a per-game basis, with rates determined by the team’s finish in Tokyo — $13,600 per player per game if the U.S. wins gold, $11,300 for silver and $9,000 for bronze. 

Add all of these together and a player who helps the USWNT qualify for the Olympics, wins gold in Tokyo and plays in all four post-Olympic matches will bring home about $204,500. The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee also pays bonuses for medaling, so you can add $37,500 to that for a grand total of $242,000. (All numbers courtesy U.S. Soccer.)

How USWNT Is Paid For Olympics By The Numbers (Per Player)

  • Olympic qualification bonus — $25,000
  • Olympic roster bonus — $25,000
  • Bronze medal bonus — $25,000
  • Silver medal bonus — $55,500
  • Gold medal bonus — $100,000

While $242,000 in one summer is life-changing money for most Americans, it still lags behind what some of the top men’s players make in a week, let alone a year. Not all of that is on U.S. Soccer, of course, as the highest wages are paid out by clubs and international pay is based heavily on the competitions. FIFA paid France $38 million for winning the 2018 World Cup while the U.S. received just $4 million for winning the 2019 Women’s World Cup. 

None of this can be an apples-to-apples comparison. Because women’s soccer was banned across many parts of the globe for so long, it set the sport back decades and only now is there a concerted effort to make things fair. (Let’s not about forget Lily Parr, an openly gay woman who drew 53,000 fans to Goodison Park in 1920 before British men decided they needed to protect women and bar them from playing football.)

Outside of the trolls on our Facebook page, I think everyone can agree paying the USWNT and USMNT equitably is the right thing to do. It’s a shame companies like Title Nine are compelled to pay the women’s players’ salaries. Hopefully the powers that be — U.S. Soccer, FIFA, Olympic committees — continue to increase how much money goes into women’s soccer.

Last week we saw just how poorly NWSL players are paid, so after LUNA Bar and Title Nine are done giving money to the USWNT, maybe they can invest in the domestic league or grass roots organizations to keep the ball rolling toward equity. There is still a long, long way to go, and it goes beyond the USWNT getting paid at the Olympics.

Information from Reuters was included in this report.

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