For 30 years, Abby Wambach’s focus was on soccer, eating right, and staying fit.
Now that the leading goal scorer in the world — for both men and women — is retiring, Wambach is starting to look back on her career and there’s one thing that stands out: the gender pay gap.
“The minute I announced my retirement, I started to reflect on my career,” Wambach said onstage at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Next Gen Summit.
“And I got pissed because I look to my counterparts across the aisle — résumes aside, the Ronaldos, the Messis, and the Landon Donovans get to leave the sport battered and bruised and not have to worry about what they’re going to do next.”
The gender pay gap in sports is both startling and well-documented. The U.S. women’s World Cup team that won made $2 million, split among all the players. In contrast, the men’s team from Germany made $35 million. The U.S. men’s team that got knocked out in the round of 16 made $9 million.
Looking at the total payouts, the men’s teams were rewarded $576 million. The women’s teams made only $15 million.
“Enough is enough,” Wambach said of the pay gap. “We have to stop allowing this to happen. If I have to be the face of it, that’s fine. But it has to, has to, has to stop.”
Some argue that the pay gap is fair. Simply, women’s sports generate less revenue and female soccer players are paid less as a result. While the US women’s World Cup match was the most-watched match in the history of US soccer, it only generated $17 million in ads. ESPN’s broadcasting of the World Cup, in contrast, netted the company $529 million in sponsorship revenue, according to the Washington Post.
To Wambach, the pay gap is unacceptable regardless. There has to be a way to change it — whether it’s a law or a movement or both, she said. Her goal after retirement is to change the world, and she say she’s not scared of saying it.
“The reality is, as Alyssa Milano said earlier, one moment can literally create a movement,” Wambach said. “I think for me, my moment was realising that I accepted being paid and being treated unequally the entirety of my career. And I’m going to make that different. I’m going to make that different for the next generation.”
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