Simone Biles at Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)


Opinion: Women athletes do not deserve equal pay

For the past few decades, equal pay in women’s sports has been a debatable topic. Main figures such as Billie Jean King, Serena Williams, Venus Williams and the United States Women National Team have fought for equal pay in their sports, some of them even achieving equal pay, but do they deserve it? Although many…
<a href="" target="_self">Lucas Wong</a>

Lucas Wong

May 23, 2021

For the past few decades, equal pay in women’s sports has been a debatable topic. Main figures such as Billie Jean King, Serena Williams, Venus Williams and the United States Women National Team have fought for equal pay in their sports, some of them even achieving equal pay, but do they deserve it?

Although many people believe that they should have equal pay because they can perform just as well as men and are entertaining, the reality is that men’s sports have a higher revenue, they play longer than women athletes and have higher skills than women athletes. Thus, women athletes should not receive equal pay with male athletes until they actually deserve it. 

The demand for equal pay for female athletes at face value seems like a fair one.

According to ESPN, they argue that women athletes do deserve equal pay because they perform the same or better statistically than men athletes. ESPN compares NBA basketball player Anthony Davis and WNBA Basketball player Nneka Ogwumike, who are both six-time All-Stars and were both the first overall pick in the 2012 NBA and WNBA draft.

Davis and Ogumike both put up similar numbers. Davis had 0.247 win shares per 48 minutes in the 2018-19 NBA season and Ogwumike had 0.248 win shares per 48 minutes in her 2019 WNBA season.

Win share is a type of statistic that shows how much impact and success a player has brought to their team. From these statistics, many would believe that women and men athletes should be equally paid because of an almost identical stat line that shows equivalent performance. 

Others also argue that women athletes should have equal pay because they are also just as entertaining as men athletes.

Audience data from FIFA stated that more than 1 billion people watch the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2019. This match is also the second most watched soccer match in U.S. history and was watched more by U.S. viewers than the 2018 FIFA World Cup. With statistics showing that they can perform equal to or better than men athletes and are entertaining to the U.S. audience, it is no surprise that many argue for equal pay for female athletes.

However, professional sports are not only for entertainment and a showcase of athletic performance; it is also a business. If a league has a high revenue, they can afford to pay more money to the players and teams.

When comparing the NBA and WNBA revenue according to The World Sports Network, the NBA had $7.4 billion in revenue while the WNBA had $60 million in revenue during the 2019 season. The revenue does not all go to the sports league; it is also distributed to all the players.  From the 7.4 billion dollars that the NBA generates, NBA players are given at least 53% percent of the revenue generated.

The WNBA generated $60 million in revenue and distributed $12.3 million of the league’s revenue to the players.

The amount of games played in a season is also a factor in how much revenue a league can bring. In a whole NBA season, 1230 games are played in a regular season and 105 playoff games are played at max if every series played in seven games. In a whole WNBA season, there are 204 games played and a maximum of 35 playoff games if played to the max of five games. 

It is very clear why NBA players make more money than WNBA players — they simply generate more revenue.  If WNBA players demand a higher salary that would match the NBA, the league could not afford it because the WNBA simply does not bring in the same amount of money as the NBA.

This simple math makes it clear why women athletes cannot be realistically paid equally as their male counterparts. 

Despite some women’s sports receiving a significant amount of interest, in general, women’s sports have a lower viewership compared to men’s sports, which is part of why they earn less money.

The NBA is broadcasted in 96 countries while the WNBA is broadcasted in 24 countries. WSN also collected data from the NBA and WNBA team’s attendance. In the 2018 WNBA season, the average attendance was around 6,768 and tickets cost an average of $17.42. The NBA average attendance was around 18,000, almost three times more, and tickets cost an average of $89, about four times more. 

“[The Liberty] hasn’t made money,” former owner of the WNBA team New York Liberty and current owner of the New York Knicks James Dolan told the Washington Post. “Its prospects of making money, at that time and even today, are still slim.”  

Not only does women’s sport have a lower viewership in basketball but they also have a lower viewership in tennis.

In the 2019 Wimbledon women’s final, it averaged a viewership rating of 1.7 and 2.44 million viewers, with Simona Halep and Serena Williams competing against each other on ESPN, and Halep defeating Williams, according to Sports Media Watch. Comparing the viewership, SMW also said that the 2019 Wimbledon men’s final had an average of 3.83 million viewers and a 2.7 rating on ESPN, as viewers watched Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer clash, with Djokovic winning the duel.

“I think that our men’s tennis world, ATP world, should fight for more because the stats are showing that we have much more spectators on the men’s tennis matches,” Djokovic said in response to women tennis players receiving equal pay.

With the statistics shown, the men’s sports viewership is simply much higher. 

The skill gap between male and female athletes is also a factor why women athletes should not get equal pay. If you put tennis men’s singles and women’s singles rank 1 players toe to toe, who would win?

One statistic tracker for tennis known as Universal Tennis Rating creates a rating based on the player’s opponent skill and how many sets were played. The highest-rated men’s player on UTR is Rafael Nadal at a 15.95 rating and the highest-rated women’s player is Naomi Osaka at a 13.40 rating.

When comparing the ratings, there is a 2.55 rating difference, not only is this disappointing, but the top 5 ranked men’s under 18 years old tennis players all have a higher rating than Osaka. 

Women athletes also aren’t as skilled in soccer — the USWNT lost to an under 15 year (U-15) old Dallas FC team in 2017, with the score being 5-2, according to the Northeastern Illinois University Independent. The USWNT didn’t just lose to the U-15 team, but they lost to the USMNT U-17 team with the score being 8-2 also.

These results are surprising to a person because they would think that a World Cup and Olympic winning team should be able to beat a team of kids under the age of 17.

Why should women athletes receive equal pay when they are rated lower and can’t defeat men athlete players younger than them?

It is clear why women athletes do not deserve equal pay. There is some possible evidence why women athletes should be paid equally, but when it comes to statistics and comparing their sports performance, audience draw and revenue generation to men’s, there is no doubt that they should not get paid equally for unequal performance.