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Equity in Sport: Public Perceptions of Equal Pay for Women and Men Athletes

In a 2020 poll of U.S. residents’ perspectives designed and analyzed by the Global Sport Institute at Arizona State University, we asked questions about equal pay for women and men athletes. In the summer of 2019, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) captivated the country and much of the world on its run to win the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Before, during, and after the tournament, several team members publicly challenged the United States Soccer Federation (U.S. Soccer) over the organization paying its men’s national team more than them. In the months that followed, the USWNT’s gender discrimination lawsuit against U.S. Soccer saw the release of controversial legal documents arguing that being on the women’s team requires less “effort” and “responsibility” than being on the men’s team. Soon after, the president of the federation, Carlos Cordeiro, resigned.

This lawsuit reignited public debate about equal pay criteria and policies that extend around the world. Ada Hegerberg of Norway, widely considered the best women’s soccer player in the world, made big news when she sat out of the 2019 World Cup to advocate for equality and greater respect for the women’s game. Tennis, on the other hand, is often praised for its early embrace of equal pay for men and women who win major tournaments, beginning with the US Open in 1973 (driven by Billie Jean King) and culminating with Wimbledon caving to public pressure in 2007 (driven by Venus Williams). These and other examples have provided fodder for researchers, including legal rationales for pay disparity of the USWNT (Jessani, 2018), historical connections to current shifts toward equity (Luther, 2019), and much more. We have seen the media reports and read the scientific evidence, but we wanted your perspectives. So, we asked.

Download the full research note here.