I know Patriot Nation fans are still trying to recover from a New England Patriots team with no Tom Brady. Even don’t-care-about-sports me recognizes this is major. There’s a reason they call him the GOAT, the greatest of all time. His overall contribution to the game of football — a closet full of NFL awards and six Superbowl victories — has earned him widespread respect and admiration. But as my cousin, Wanda often says,” You can’t take that to the Piggly-Wiggly —” that’s the popular Southern regional grocery store. Meaning Tom Brady couldn’t spend prestige; to get the 30 million a year he felt he deserved — he had to go elsewhere. I’m aware that right now these numbers may seem obscene given the economic hard times brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
But I couldn’t help noticing that Brady negotiated his new salary deal while other talented deserving athletes are forced to continue their high-profile fight for equal pay. The U.S. Women’s National Soccer team is paid far less than the U.S. National Men’s Soccer Team. Despite their superior record and consistently top-notch play. And even though the Men’s team has a spotty record of winning. In fact, the US Women’s Soccer team is one of the winningest on record. Led by dynamic team captain Megan Rapinoe, the team has earned Olympic Gold Medals and World Titles.
But, the U.S. Soccer Federation, or USSF, has refused their demands for equal pay, leading the team to file a lawsuit last year. The USSF’s legal response went public two weeks ago. In the court papers, the Federation argued women players were less skilled and played fewer demanding roles than men.
Team members took the field at the SheBelieves Cup with a pre-game coordinated protest; during the playing of the National Anthem, the women turned their warm-up jerseys inside out covering up the USSF crest. Forward Carli Lloyd said the dramatic gesture was necessary, saying “...it’s just got to get better.” And then these superior athletes went on to win the game, beating Japan three to one.
Two years ago, sportscaster Jim Gray asked Tom Brady if he felt appreciated by the Patriots. Brady told Gray “I plead the fifth.” But the U.S. soccer team has been frank and vocal about how the pay inequality demonstrates a profound lack of respect for them as athletes. Something the former President of the USSF seemed to acknowledge when he resigned his post following the sexist court statement. Carlos Cordeiro urged negotiations to proceed with ”utmost respect not only for our women’s national team players but for all female athletes around the world.”
The new President is a former award-winning soccer player and the first woman to head the organization in its 107-year history. Cindy Parlow Cone will represent the USSF when the women’s pay dispute goes to a scheduled May court date.
Money can’t buy love or respect. But I bet the flush with even more cash Tom Brady would agree that in business it can demonstrate value. I’m not surprised that a Superbowl winning male quarterback is more highly valued than Olympic gold medal-winning women soccer players. But the USSF now has a chance to even the score ensuring that all soccer players representing the US National teams earn on a level playing field.