Rarely at The Mary Sue do we ever cover sports, but I’m making an exception because women’s soccer is so grossly undervalued and Lifetime is making an attempt to change that. The self-proclaimed “network for women” is now an official sponsor and broadcast partner with the National Women’s Soccer League and will air a game each Saturday during its 20-game season. According to Deadline, the three-year deal comes after parent company A+E Networks purchased an equity stake in the league.
“As a former college athlete, I know the importance of sports in the lives of women and girls and I couldn’t be more thrilled to join forces with NWSL and U.S. Soccer to ensure professional women athletes are elevated as the entire country can watch and be inspired by their strength and athleticism,” A+E Networks president and CEO Nancy Dubuc said. “The teams are filled with some of the best professional players in the world, and we are proud to welcome them to Lifetime.”
In 2015, the U.S. women’s soccer team, which includes players from the U.S. national league, shattered TV ratings records with more than 20 million American viewers when they won the FIFA World Cup. However, they were only paid $2 million meanwhile, in 2014, the men’s team received $9 million after getting eliminated in round 16. Germany, who won the men’s tournament that year, earned a whopping $35 million.
In 2016, members of the U.S. women’s national league filed a lawsuit for pay discrimination. In response, the U.S. Soccer Federation argued that any discrepancies in pay were “driven by factors other than gender.” In other words, the way men and women get paid are different, allowing for the men to make more money. The Washington Post breaks it down in greater detail here. As of November 2016, it’s still an ongoing issue.
Hopefully this new TV deal will raise their profile and they’ll start to see a more level playing field when it comes to exposure and pay. Who knows, it might even trickle down into other sports as well.
(via Deadline, image via screencap)
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