Fox & Friends Glosses Over FIFA's Systemic Sexism In Attempt To Justify Gender Pay Disparity


Fox & Friends attempted to justify the gender pay disparity in professional soccer, glossing over systemic discrimination faced by female World Cup players to claim the unequal treatment has nothing to do with sexism and everything to do with lack of viewer and sponsor interest.

The U.S. women's soccer team collected $2 million from FIFA for winning the World Cup on June 5, dominating defending champion Japan in a records-breaking 5-2 victory. In contrast, FIFA granted every men's World Cup team a $1.5 million participation prize -- teams who lost in the first round of play received $8 million, and the winning German men's team was awarded $35 million for taking home the championship.

Fox News chalked this disparity up to lack of viewer and sponsorship interest in women's soccer on the July 7 edition of Fox and Friends. Pointing out the pay disparity between men and women's teams, host Brian Kilmeade argued that if women's soccer could only deliver a large number of viewers consistently, “more sponsors [would] write bigger checks to be part of that broadcast.” Steve Doocy agreed, saying, “That's exactly right. Because if as many people watch soccer going forward as watched the other night, those people are going to wind up getting rich. But if it's just a, 'we only watch when they're in the World Cup,' you're going to be right back there forever.” Kilmeade concluded, “I don't think there's a sexist element to this”:

It's not just FIFA -- The National Women's Soccer League Sports “has salary ranges reportedly from $6,000 to $30,000, which in some cases may put players below the poverty line in the cities in which they compete,” as Politico explained. “The MLS salary cap, by contrast, was $3.1 million in 2014. 'In aggregate, first division women's soccer players are making 98.6 percent less than professional soccer's male cohort,' according to Fusion, making it one of the starkest gender pay divides in any workplace.”

Sports executives attribute a supposed lack of interest in women's sports to a chicken-egg problem, where failure to properly promote women's soccer leads to less sponsorship money. Politico went on:

The thinking among entertainment executives is often that ratings will be lackluster, interest will be low, advertisers won't clamor to buy commercial time between the plays, even though the U.S. women's team is delivering wins consistently. It leads to a fascinating chicken-egg problem: If networks did a better job of promoting women's soccer, would more people watch it? Or, if more people watch women's soccer, will the networks begin to pay more for the rights? Currently, it feels like a chicken-chicken problem, with the women's team doing their job (winning games) and everyone else lagging badly in valuing their work. If the crowd in Chicago Sunday or chatter online was any indicator, people want to watch good athletic competition -- male or female.

It's a vicious cycle, highlighted by The Washington Post's Wonk Blog, created in part by the media landscape that won't give them the time of day because "[w]omen's sports are seen as lesser moneymakers, ignored in media and merchandising deals, given less dramatic coverage, fewer cameras, less airtime -- all of which might help explain why the sport is overlooked in the first place."

Gender discrimination goes beyond pay, as well. Female soccer players face rampant sexism from within FIFA itself. In 2015, an international group of players sued FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association for forcing women's teams to play on turf instead of grass, which creates dangerous game conditions as it reaches temperatures of up to 120 degrees, sends rubber pebbles flying into players' eyes, and often leaves brutal injuries on players. All men's World Cups have been played on grass, which is more expensive to lay than artificial turf.

And FIFA officials have been known to approach ratings in a way that treats female soccer players less like athletes and more like props. Disgraced FIFA president Sepp Blatter said that female athletes should play in skimpier outfits to increase the popularity of the game, saying, “They could, for example, have tighter shorts. Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men - such as playing with a lighter ball. That decision was taken to create a more female aesthetic, so why not do it in fashion?”