CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — A new law requires that all athletes who represent the United States in global competitions like the World Cup, Olympics or Paralympics receive equal pay and benefits in their sport.
President Joe Biden signed the “Equal Pay for Team USA Act” into law on Thursday, Jan. 5.
West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R) was the first to co-sponsor the bill, which was introduced by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA). The bill passed the full Senate with unanimous support on Dec. 8, 2022, according to a press release from Capito’s office.
The West Virginia University Women’s Soccer Team was one of 30 organizations to support the bill.
The release said, “Before, men and women could be compensated differently for representing Team USA in the same sport. For years, there have been stories – from the women’s national teams in many sports being paid consistently less, to women’s teams flying in coach to games while men’s teams sat in business class and waiting months for medical reimbursements.”
In 2022, the only female athletes to make Forbes‘ Top 50 Highest-Paid Athletes list were Naomi Osaka, who was ranked 19th earning $59.2 million between on-field ($1.2 million) and off-field ($58 million) earnings, and Serena Williams at 31st, earning $45.3 million between on-field ($300,000) and off-field ($45 million) earnings.
While Osaka and Williams’ on-field earnings are lower than many on the rest of the list, the other tennis player to make the top 50, Roger Federer, who was ranked seventh, made $90.7 million between on-field ($700,000) and off-field ($90 million) earnings.
Equal pay critics often cite the difference in the profitability of men’s and women’s sports as one of the reasons why female athletes are paid less. National Research Group found that in 2022, the broadcast rights for all women’s sports in the United States was $47.7 million. In comparison, the NBA alone averages $2.66 billion in its rights deals with ESPN and Turner Sports, according to Forbes.