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Monica Abbott deal spotlights sports' gender wage-gap

By Alex Butler
Monica Abbott deal spotlights sports' gender wage-gap
Former Chicago Bandits pitcher Monica Abbott signed a $1 million contract to play for the Scrap Yard Dawgs. (Instagram/@MonicaAbbott.)

MIAMI, May 6 (UPI) -- She became first female athlete in U.S. team sports to sign a $1 million contract, but Monica Abbott resurfaced a brutal truth.

The way her deal is structured tells the story.

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Because of the National Pro Fastpitch's measly league salary cap of $150,000, Abbott will be paid just $20,000 each season. The rest of her deal is bonus-laden. Bonuses are achieved when "attendance for a small number of games reaches 100 fans, regardless of whether the team is at home or away and whether or not Abbott pitches," according to espnW's Graham Hays.

Lost in the celebration of the deal is comparison. Six teams in NPF total $900,000 in salary cap. Even if the league had the same number of teams [30] as its Major League Baseball counterpart, its total cap would be $4.5 million. MLB's minimum salary for 2016 is $507,500, but its highest paid player is being paid 1,600 times more than Abbott in base salary.

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Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw's $32 million salary isn't the only one burning the books. MLB has 36 players earning more than $20 million in 2016. MLB increased its minimum salary by $7,500 this season. The average salary in NPF is $5,000 to $6,000.

Disregarding individual earnings like Floyd Mayweather's $285 million 2015 salary, foreign men's soccer stars and tennis players, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's $35 million last season was the highest mark in U.S. team sports.

A large reason for the jump in NFL salaries stems from new TV deals with ESPN, Fox, CBS, and NBC, which produce $5 billion of revenue each year. That leap lent each NFL team a $39 million jump in revenue last season. All 32 NFL teams were worth about $63 billion last season, according to Forbes.

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Longevity is an interesting angle. With an average career lifespan of 3.5 years and average salary of $2.1 million, an NFL player makes $47,727 annually in 44 years. A woman who starts full-time work at 18-years-old and retires at the average age of 62 would earn at least $39,000 annually, if median weekly earnings for the first quarter of 2016 were applied by that same logic. The Institute for Women's Policy Research reports that women will not see equal pay with men until 2059.

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GREED OR GROWTH

Perhaps the most glaring evidence supporting a sport-specific shakeup comes on the basketball court. Vice Sports' David Berri says the WNBA should treat its "players like their NBA counterparts."

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In Berri's 2015 article, he contends that using the argument that higher revenues from leagues, such as the NBA, to explain this difference runs "counter to the data."

Berri used the pillars of wage discretion: revenue generated and the worker's ability to bargain, to apply that data. NBA collective bargaining has determined that half of league revenue is paid to its players. By using $35 million, comprised of the WNBA's broadcasting deal and ticket sales last season, the WNBA would have paid its players an average of $114,249 had it used half of its revenue, according to Berri. The average salary in the WNBA in 2015 was $75,000.

And that is underestimating WNBA revenue by not including merchandise, sponsorships, and playoff ticket sales.

"In other words, the television deal by itself is sufficient to pay every player's salary—which means the WNBA players' union essentially has given league owners all other revenue sources," Berri wrote.

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A FIGHT FROM CHAMPIONS

Members from the United States Women's National Team took on FIFA's gender pay gap following its 2015 World Cup win. The team's biggest star says that they are "done with it."

"Simply put, we're sick of being treated like second-class citizens. It wears on you after a while. And we are done with it," Carli Lloyd wrote in an essay published in The New York Times.

Five members of the team filed a wage-discrimination complaint against U.S. Soccer, with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in March, requesting equal pay.

"The fact that women are being mistreated financially is, sadly, not a breaking news story," Lloyd wrote in the New York Times. "It goes on in every field. We can't right all the world's wrongs, but we're totally determined to right the unfairness in our field, not just for ourselves but for the young players coming up behind us and for our soccer sisters around the world."

Last month, Hillary Clinton worked with Lloyd's teammate Megan Rapinoe, speaking at a roundtable in Times Square for 'Equal Pay Day.' The duo pushed the audience to bring the issue to the forefront.

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"We cheered when they won the World Cup and we cheered when they won the Olympic gold medal," Clinton said, according to the New York Daily News. "And we noticed that our men's team hasn't yet done that. And yet somehow the men are making hundreds of thousands of dollars more than the women."

Lloyd's teammates: Hope Solo, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Ali Krieger, joined 'The Daily Show' in May to talk about their battle.

The 2015 Women's World Cup final between the USA and Japan was the most-watched soccer match in U.S. history, men or women.

"We are not backing down anymore," Lloyd wrote in the New York Times. "If I've learned anything in my career, it's that nothing worthwhile in life comes easy. That's just the way it is. This isn't about a money grab. It's about doing the right thing, the fair thing. It's about treating people the way they deserve to be treated, no matter their gender."

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