July 24, 2016
By Charles Cuttone
With a voice, WNT players can do greater good
On Saturday, the WNBA rescinded a fine it had issued to several teams and players because the players used pregame warm-up gear to promote social causes.
It wasn't that the league objected to the players taking a social stance, hence the rescinding of the fine. The players in question wore shirts that said #BlackLivesMatter and #Dallas5.
Thatís not exactly a soccer story. But it is relevant. These players, among the best women's athletes in the world, used their platform in an attempt to better the common good.
Juxtapose that with the U.S. Women's National Team, who have been marketing shirts that say #Equal Play #Equal Pay in an attempt to better their own good.
Now, I'm not saying the U.S. Women donít have an issue with regard to what and how they are paid by U.S. Soccer, but it's not apples and apples comparing their pay structure to that of the Men's National Team. A lot of factors come into play, including the various four-year cycles between each team's World Cups, exhibition games, qualifying, TV and sponsor dollars and prize money. Yes, prize money. A lot has been made about how much the Men were paid for merely playing in the World Cup, versus what the Women were paid for winning it. But the prize pool for each tournament is based on the event worldwide, not on the relative popularity of the teams on their home soil.
But I digress. Many WNBA players are in the same boat as women's soccer players, earning a relatively meager average salary of $72,000 a year -- coincidently, about the same average salary as members of the U.S. Women's National Team.
So while the WNBA players have chosen to take a social stand, the soccer players as they prepare for the Olympics have chosen to take a more self-serving one, marketing the t-shirts in hopes of gaining public support after being as yet unsuccessful in the courts and at the bargaining tables. Hope Solo also chose the forum of her web site to rip playing conditions in the National Women's Soccer League--and also the pay.
Solo's initial complaint was completely justified. The field the Western New York Flash and Seattle Reign played on in Rochester a few weeks ago was shoehorned into a baseball outfield, measuring by most accounts about 50 yards wide. Point taken. That game should not have been played on that field. Same for the canceled game in Hawaii as part of last year's WNT victory tour.
But then Solo ripped into other factors in the league, including training facilities, game facilities and pay.
"We lose a lot of players - quality players for the league - over time because they can't afford it," Solo wrote. "In the end, to watch them realize their dreams aren't sustainable is very hard to watch - and there are a lot of broken dreams for women in our sport."
What Solo forgets is that the NWSL is the third incarnation of trying to make women's professional soccer work. The other two leagues failed awash in red ink and owners who could not sustain the losses. That's been the problem with women's soccer since the first league began amid the big dreams of the 1999 World Cup. While fans wave the red, white and blue to support the national team and big events, a league day in and day out is a different matter. Twenty years on, Major League Soccer teams are still looking to make a profit.
All too often the message from the players has been "we are the best we deserve to see our dreams fulfilled." For many athletes heading to Rio, who have sacrificed just as much or more as the women's soccer players, including holding down jobs, taking care of kids with no federation provided nannies and trying to get an education, just getting to Rio is the realization of those dreams.
It seems like for the WNBA players, so is having a voice for others.