As a young girl who ran track on a male-predominant team growing up, my dad would routinely tell me before the start of an event to, ‘beat the boys.’ While I followed instructions, I never knew the true meaning behind his words; until now, that is. Because of him, no matter how small and skinny I was, I never saw myself to be lesser than my opponents. I looked to the boy standing next to me on the track, and he represented a challenge, not an imminent defeat. While my dad taught me what it meant to ignore the gender stereotype of strength, young girls no longer need adults to tell them they are powerful. Instead, they see representations of current female athletes where they truly belong: On the main stage.
Take the United States Women’s National Soccer Team, for example. I cannot remember the last time I cried because of a sporting event, but there I was, bawling my eyes out as I watched history be made by Rapinoe, Lavelle, Lloyd, Press, Morgan, Dunn, and their teammates. They proved to all those who viewed the 2019 Women’s World Cup (around 1 billion viewers in total) that they were just as important as their male counterparts. But why was their match against the Netherlands in the World Cup Final so monumental, you ask? Well, what if I told you that during World Cup Years, max earnings for the U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) is estimated to be at $1.1 million, while for the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) it is only $200,000. Now add on the fact that the USWNT’s jersey is the ‘highest-selling soccer jersey ever’ by Nike. Then follow it again with the fact that the USMNT has not made it to the World Cup Semi-Finals since 1930, while the USWNT are FOUR-TIME World Cup champions. The sexism of their sport has forced the USWNT to fight for something they should have been born with: Equality. Their determination to win on and off the pitch is seen in the lawsuit twenty-eight players filed against the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) in March of 2019, an event resulting from the culmination of a long-standing battle already taking place between the two. The team ultimately demonstrates that discrimination on the ‘basis of gender, despite a strong performance record,’ will no longer be tolerated.
Another athlete changing the game is Serena Williams. Her openness about playing after giving birth to her two-year-old daughter, Alexis Olympia, is nothing less than inspirational. There is an evident stigma around new mothers who choose to continue their passion after giving birth, and Williams, along with other ‘Grand Slam singles title winning mothers…like Margaret Court, Evonne Goolagong and Kim Clijsters,’ are putting a stop to it. Serena is also re-writing the rules of her sport, pushing both the technical and physical boundaries of her opponents. However, it is by crossing the line of right and wrong—similar to how she did at the 2018 U.S. Open— that she transforms herself from an athlete to a symbol of female expression. Sportswriter, Liz Clarke, states Serena Williams has drawn attention to the rules of tennis by creating a debate on whether or not Chair Umpires apply them equally to men and women. Her willingness to bring the issues of tennis to life and fight against critics proves her strength and courage to those who watch her play.
In the end, women dominate their sports, and it is plain to see the impact they are making on younger generations. Female athletes are using their platforms to equalize the literal playing field. They are changing the rules; no longer asking for attention, but demanding it from the world.
USA Soccer Team Salary: How Much Money Do USWNT vs. USMNT Players Make?