Women’s hockey, soccer stars score big wins toward brighter future
Contemporary sportswomen realize it's not about whether you won or lost, but how you fought for equality of opportunity.
In a matter of days, female athletes around the globe scored a trio of wins in their fight for equality after decades of work.
The U.S. women’s national soccer team struck a new collective agreement with their federation, ending more than a year of at times contentious negotiations, with players seeking comparable compensation to the men’s national team.
It followed the U.S. national hockey team’s deal with USA Hockey after players threatened to boycott the women’s world championships over wages.
The quest for better pay and conditions even extended across the Atlantic to Ireland, where the women’s national soccer team there threatened to sit out of an exhibition match this weekend.
“It’s pretty incredible what the women’s hockey team did and they were courageous in their fight. There were differences between our battle and their battle, but they were inspirational,” U.S. midfielder Megan Rapinoe said. “For us and them, we were able to inspire other teams.”
The actions of these teams highlight the struggle for female athletes to achieve fair compensation for their efforts, even if that doesn’t mean identical paychecks to their male counterparts. ‘Fair’ can include even simple items like access to changing rooms, in the case of the Irish players.
It is not a new fight.
Back in 1995, a group of high-profile players including Michelle Akers, Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly were locked out of a pre-Olympic training camp because of a disagreement over bonus pay with the U.S. Soccer Federation. The dispute was quickly settled and women’s soccer made its debut at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The United States won the gold.
Following the team’s victory on penalty kicks in the 1999 World Cup final against China, the players boycotted a tournament in Australia. They eventually came to terms on a deal with the federation that extended through the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Inspired by the soccer players, Olympian Cammi Granato pushed USA Hockey in 2000 for better conditions and pay. The hockey team was coming off a gold medal in the 1998 Nagano Games, the first Olympics that included the women’s game.
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