Peter Cavanaugh

Girls, girls, girls

It scored the highest soccer ratings in the history of American television. The U.S. women’s soccer team shattered global record books on Sunday, July 5, becoming World Champions with their 5-2 win over an exceptional Japanese contingent, including a breathtaking four goals scored in the first 16 minutes of the match.

More than 25 million viewers watched the game on Fox Sports – peaking at 31 million during the final 15 minutes.

By comparison, recent NBA Finals on ABC only reached a high of 23.25 million in the sixth and final game. This year’s men’s college basketball title game between Duke and Wisconsin pulled 28.26 million viewers. No Major League Baseball game has drawn a larger audience since the 2004 World Series.

So why did our world champion women’s team receive only $2 million for winning the 2015 World Cup while the U.S. men’s squad received $8 million for losing last year in Round 16 of the 2014 World Cup - a prize eventually captured by Germany – along with $35 million dollars for the players? That’s our U.S. women getting 5.7% of what the German guys got for winning a World Soccer Cup.

Discrimination and sexism can easily be traced to the top. Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter, having recently resigned due to scandals involving hundreds of millions, outrageously stated in 2004 that female soccer players should “play in more feminine clothes” to make their involvement “popular.”

According to Fusion Magazine, the average salary in the U.S. Men’s Soccer League is $305,000. For women it’s not quite 5% of that - $14,000. More than 20 times less. While free market forces have much to do with such a radical “sock her” differential, it’s clear that soccer is yet another frontier about to be influenced by irresistible forces of long delayed change.

Although parity still waits on a distant horizon, sales of U.S. Women’s team jerseys rocketed by 3,000% immediately following our ladies’ victory over Japan, throngs of New Yorkers jammed “The Canyon of Heroes” in lower Manhattan for a spectacular ticker-tape parade, and major endorsement offers are flowing in - recognizing a stunning historic achievement.

My mother was born in 1903 - 17 years before progressive forces finally brought women the right to vote. As the father of four daughters and grandfather of four more women, I find myself deeply impatient that the average working woman still makes less than 80% of that earned by her male counterpart, all things considered.

While this is a vast improvement since 1980 when the female to male earnings ratio was a shocking 60.2%, most of this positive trending took place between 1980 and 1990 (to 71.6%) and has been slowing to a crawl these last 25 years.

And as the grandfather of eight young men, I hope they join their sisters as part of a new generation dramatically emerging with bright attention, new hope and fresh promise.

2015 marks the year our nation’s “Millennials” will finally out number us “Baby Boomers” 75.3 million to 74.9. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates this auspicious occasion will occur on or about Sept. 8, when Bernie Sanders and I both turn 74.

Our young have at their disposal astounding technical capabilities unimagined as we entered the 21st Century, particularly in the area of instant universal communication. Truth is becoming ubiquitous and unavoidable.

Politicians of all persuasions - be aware. Our children are awake. Unlike their immediate predecessors, it is my fervent hope and lasting prayer - they won’t get fooled again.