USA Hockey Is Reinforcing Inequality
Sports

USA Hockey Is Reinforcing Inequality

There are reasons behind the U.S. Women's Hockey boycott, but USA Hockey is choosing to ignore them.

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Sara Melikian

It takes resiliency to be a female athlete. Women and girls in nearly every sport face rampant inequality and minimization nearly every day, whether it's unequal pay or lack of recognition for effort, dedication, and talent. Yet, some are pockmarked by these sexist disparities more than others. Hockey is one of those sports. And as it turns out, it doesn't even end for professionals. In fact, it gets worse in many ways.

If you thought inequality between men's and women's sports stopped with Title IX, think again. On March 15th, the U.S. Women's Hockey Team announced that it would boycott the World Championship games in protest against unequal treatment by USA Hockey. And you might wonder, how bad can it really be? It's 2017. Aren't we passed this?

The indisputable, definite answer is no. CNN and NPR reveal some of the numbers behind these disparities, pointing out that many of the female players have to find second or third jobs to support their Olympic pursuits since they receive such a meager income. Other talented players who are entirely capable of playing for the team have to give up their dreams of being an Olympian for purely economic reasons. That's not to mention the fact that the men's team often enjoys higher quality equipment, meals, hotels, and marketing opportunities.

But I think what's most troubling is the way that USA Hockey has gone about handling the situation. Rather than work with the women on establishing more equal terms and adequate compensation, the organization is prepared to find replacement players in time for the World Championships. In other words, they're willing to find cheaper labor -- people who will play for next to nothing. Some women have been fighting against inequality with USA Hockey since as early as 2000. Seventeen years later, not much has changed, and the athletes have had to resort to boycotting. Meghan Duggan, a forward on the team, told NPR, "We base where we live, what we do, when our alarms go off, when we sleep, what we eat, based on [USA Hockey's] orders, and their anticipation that we will show up and perform for them when asked."

The sad part is, there is nothing unusual about this scenario. It's certainly not limited to athletics. Gender inequality exists in nearly every facet of our existence, including the workforce. Fortune reveals that "women ask for more pay just as men do -- but get it less often." Twenty-five percent less often, to be exact.

According to CNN, "USA Hockey spends about $3.5 million per year on developing boy's hockey programs." When CNN asked the organization how much they spend on girl's programs, USA Hockey wouldn't offer a concrete number, simply insisting that they are a "world leader" in the development of female hockey players. Of course, when the sport isn't particularly widespread globally -- especially for women -- it's not very difficult to be considered a "world leader." There's hardly any competition.


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