In these sports, Equal Pay Day is years away

Even though Naomi Osaka is one of the highest paid female athletes, there is still a gender wage gap in tennis
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Today – March 24, 2021 – is “Equal Pay Day” in the United States.

The date is a symbolic representation of the gender pay gap, showing how far into 2021 the average woman has to work to match what her male counterpart made in 2020 alone. While March 24 represents the women’s average, the gender pay gap is compounded by the racial pay gap. This year, Black Women’s Equal Pay Day is August 3, Native Women’s Equal Pay Day is September 8, and Latina Equal Pay Day is October 21.

In sports, the gender pay gap is especially lopsided.

This year, the highest paid NBA player – Stephen Curry – will make the equivalent of 350-plus WNBA salaries. (And, by the way, there are only 144 players in the WNBA.)

I’ll be the first to say it: this is not fair comparison.

The NBA was founded nearly 75 years ago, while the WNBA is about to celebrate its 25th anniversary. Along the way, the amount of money invested in – and the number of risks taken on – marketing and promoting the NBA far surpass the numbers on the women’s side.

There are plenty of people out there who would blame sports’ gender pay gap on the women. We’ve all know the comments. Women aren’t as fast. Women don’t dunk. Women only play three sets.

But the women’s game isn’t to blame. Instead, in many sports, the gender pay gap is the result of decades of underinvestment, fueled by sexist beliefs.

To create an equitable future for women’s sports, it’s important to recognize inequalities where they currently exist, and understand how they came to be.

While there have been plenty of stories about the stark disparities between NBA and WNBA salaries – as well as the U.S. women’s soccer team’s fight for equal pay – the current gender wage gap extends far beyond the best known sports.

With that in mind, here is where the gender pay gap stands in five Olympic sports.

The following are organized in chronological order and show approximately how far past December 31, 2020 female athletes in each sport will need to continue working to earn what their male counterparts earned in 2020 alone. Unless otherwise noted, the wages listed represent base salary and don’t include income from sponsorships, bonuses, or revenue sharing agreements.

Surfing (World Surf League): December 31, 2020

Ahead of the 2019 season, the World Surf League (WSL) announced that it would award equal prize money to male and female athletes at every WSL event, including the top-tier Championship Tour.

In April 2019, American Caroline Marks became the first woman to take advantage of the new prize money policy, winning the women’s Gold Coast event to pocket $100,000.

Prior to the change, female winners made much less than their male counterparts. At the 2018 Rip Curl Pro, Australia’s Stephanie Gilmore earned $65,000 for winning the women’s contest, while Brazil’s Italo Ferreira took home $100,000 for winning the men’s event.

Alpine Skiing (FIS World Cup): January 17, 2021

The majority of races on alpine skiing’s World Cup circuit award equal prize money.

And because the best women tend to win more races, for the last five seasons, the sport’s prize money list has been topped by a woman. American Mikaela Shiffrin held the title for four straight years (2017-2020), while Swiss skier Lara Gut-Behrami was 2021’s top earner.

Still, there is a small gender pay gap in the sport.

During the 2020-21 season, the top 30 women on the World Cup circuit won an average of 129,259 CHF (approximately $138,345 USD) in prize money, while the top 30 men averaged 135,266 CHF ($144,774 USD).

The 17-day pay gap is the result of two main factors. In recent years, the men’s World Cup calendar has included more races than the women’s, even before weather cancellations get added to the mix.

In addition, some World Cup stops in Austria offer bonus prize money. During the 2020-21 season, the men had five such races, while the women had just one.

Tennis (WTA vs ATP): June 18, 2021

If you’re like me, you’re probably surprised that “Equal Pay Day” in tennis is so late into the year. After all, it was 48 years ago that the US Open started awarding equal prize money after Billie Jean King famously threatened to boycott the tournament. Thirty-four years later in 2007, Wimbledon became the last of the four Grand Slams to award equal prize money.

But while tennis is often lauded for its commitment to equal pay, outside of the four Grand Slams, there is a significant wage gap.

Throughout the year, top men compete on the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals), while the equivalent women’s tour is the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association). The ATP and WTA tour schedules include top competitions – like the Grand Slams and Olympics – as well as a variety of other premier events.

And it is the payout at those other events that have resulted in the current wage gap.

In 2020, the top 200 men on the ATP tour averaged $568,257 in prize money, nearly twice the average of the top 200 women on the WTA tour ($388,739).

Of course, 2020 was not a typical year. But it also wasn’t a major outlier when it comes to the gender wage gap.

In 2019, the top 200 men averaged ($1,080,371), 25 percent more than the average of the top 200 women ($860,649).

In recent years, some of the sport’s most prominent voices – from King to Roger Federer – have advocated for merging the WTA and ATP tours.

Still, some men have been less supportive. In an interview on CNN in May 2020, Andy Murray – a longtime advocate for women’s tennis –  explained that some male players were opposed to equal prize money, even if their own pay increased.

“Let’s say the first-round loser’s check for the men went from $8,000 to $10,000 and the women went from $6,000 to $10,000,” Murray explained. “I spoke to some of the male players about that who were unhappy because the prize money was equal. And I said, ‘Well, would you rather there was no increase at all?’ And they said to me, ‘Yeah, actually.’”

Golf (LPGA vs PGA): July 28, 2026

While female golfers earn more than women in most other sports, they still lag behind their male counterparts in golf.

During the 2020 LPGA season, the top 100 earners – competing in an average of 13 events – pocketed $320,000 in prize money on average. In comparison, the top 100 earners on the 2019-20 PGA Tour – competing in an average of 19 events – earned nearly seven times more: an average of $2,102,446 in prize money per player.

Because 2020 saw many events cancelled, especially on the LPGA Tour, I also compared earnings from the 2019 LPGA Tour with the 2018-19 PGA Tour. Within that time frame, the top 100 men and women competed in about the same number of events: an average of 22.6 for the women, compared to 22.8 for the men. But among the top 100 earners, the average LPGA player took home $584,104 in prize money while the average PGA player earned $2,567,264.

Hockey (NWHL vs NHL): October 24, 2342

That year is not a typo.

Based on current salaries, it would take the average NWHL player over 300 years to earn what an NHL player makes in a single season.

When the NWHL began in 2015, players made between $10,000 and $26,000, but salaries were slashed nearly in half after the start of season two to keep the league afloat.

When the current $150,000/team salary cap is applied to an 18-player game roster, the average NWHL player salary comes in at $8,333. In 2019, NWHL players secured a 50-50 split of sponsor-related revenues, and the NWHL has gained more than a dozen new sponsors in the last year, which could boost player wages. Still, the NWHL does not currently provide a liveable wage.

In comparison, during the 2019-20 season, the average NHL salary – not including income from revenue sharing – was 2.69 million dollars.

The 300-year pay gap is one of the reasons many top players opted to leave the NWHL and form the PWHPA in 2019. Many PWHPA players – as well the organization’s operations consultant Jayna Heffordhave said they believe the NHL should play a role in backing a professional women’s league.

ON HER TURF UPDATE: USA-Canada ‘Rivalry Rematch’ highlights historic underinvestment, and future potential, of women’s pro hockey

When WNBA players opted out of their CBA (collective bargaining agreement) in 2018, WNBPA president Nneka Ogwumike wrote in a Players Tribune essay, “To me, opting out means not just believing in ourselves, but going one step further: betting on ourselves.”

A year later in January 2020, the WNBA and WNBPA agreed to a landmark new deal, which included sharply increased salaries for rookies, higher wages for veteran players, maternity and child-care benefits, improved travel conditions, and increased revenue sharing opportunities.

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert called it “a big bet on women” while Ogwumike said she hopes the WNBA’s CBA serves as “a legacy for women in sports going forward.”

In the last year, we have seen more examples of this mentality. And not just women betting on themselves, but women betting on each other:

From athletes like Candace Parker and Naomi Osaka investing in the NWSL… to Renee Montgomery becoming a co-owner of the Atlanta Dream… to Alex Morgan, Sue Bird, Simone Manuel, and Chloe Kim teaming up to launch their own media company.

The message is clear: The time to invest in women is now.

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2022 Rivalry Series: USA extends lead to 3-0 over Canada in women’s hockey showcase

Hilary Knight #21 of Team United States reacts after scoring a shorthanded goal in the second period during the Women's Ice Hockey Gold Medal match.
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Hilary Knight had two goals and one assist to lead the U.S. women’s hockey team to a 4-2 win over Canada on Sunday, extending Team USA’s series lead to 3-0 in the seven-game 2022-23 Rivalry Series.

Savannah Harmon and Abby Roque also scored for the U.S., which has notched three consecutive wins against Canada for the first time since 2019. Goalie Nicole Hensley made 22 saves in front of a record-setting crown at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, where fan attendance totaled 14,551.

Marie-Philip Poulin and Sarah Nurse scored for Canada, which captured gold \at both the IIHF Women’s World Championship in September and the Beijing Olympics in February.

Knight has enjoyed a standout 2022-23 Rivalry Series to date, registering six points (three goals, three assists) in the first three games including the game-winning goal in a shootout victory in Game 1 of the series on Tuesday and the game-winning assist in Game 2 on Thursday. Prior to the puck drop in Seattle on Sunday, Knight was presented with a golden stick to commemorate her record-breaking 87th career point in world championship play. Knight became the all-time points leader at the IIHF Women’s World Championship in September, when the eight-time world champion recorded one goal and one assist in Team USA’s 12-1 quarterfinal win over Hungary.

Sunday’s matchup between the U.S. and Canada marked the third game of the 2022-23 Rivalry Series and was the third matchup between the two teams in five days. The U.S. came in with a 2-0 series lead following a 2-1 victory on Thursday in Kamloops, B.C., and a 4-3 shootout victory — the first shootout in Rivalry Series history — in Kelowna, B.C., on Tuesday. It also was the first game for the U.S. national team on home soil since Dec. 17, 2021, when the team hosted Canada in St. Louis (Canada won 3-2 in overtime).

The 2022-23 Rivalry Series continues next month with two games in the U.S., set to be played in Las Vegas on Dec. 17 and Los Angeles on Dec. 19.

2022-23 Rivalry Series schedule, results

Tuesday, Nov. 15 USA 4, CAN 3 (SO) Kelowna, British Columbia NHL Network
Thursday, Nov. 17 USA 2, CAN 1 Kamloops, British Columbia NHL Network
Sunday, Nov. 20 USA 4, CAN 2 Seattle, Washington NHL Network
Thursday, Dec. 15 10 p.m. ET Henderson, Nevada NHL Network
Monday, Dec. 19 10 p.m. ET Los Angeles, California NHL Network

What is the Rivalry Series?

The Rivalry Series was introduced by USA Hockey and Hockey Canada during the 2018-19 season and designed as an annual showcase of the highest level of women’s hockey at various locations in the United States and Canada. The first series comprised three games between the two national teams, with Canada winning 2-1. Team USA took 2019-20 title, winning the expanded five-game series 4-1 and wrapping with an overtime win in the finale in front of a then-record-breaking total of 13,320 fans in Anaheim, California.

Following a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic and preparation for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, the Rivalry Series resumed this season with seven games over three months: three in November, two in December and two in February.

The U.S. and Canada have battled in the gold-medal game of six of seven Winter Olympics and 20 of 21 IIHF Women’s World Championship, with the two exceptions being the 2019 World Championship and 2006 Olympics. The Canadian women are the reigning Olympic and world champions.

2022-23 Rivalry Series rewind: USA takes Games 1-2

Game 1 recap: USA 4, CAN 3, SO (Nov. 15): The series kicked off Tuesday with Team USA grabbing a 2-0 lead off goals from Hannah Brandt and Hilary Knight. But Canada battled back with three unanswered goals and held a 3-2 lead with 13 minutes to go in the third. With just 1:29 remaining in regulation, Alex Carpenter tied it for the Americans, sending the game to overtime. The U.S. ultimately won in a shootout, with Knight and Carpenter scoring while U.S. goalie Nicole Hensley made two key saves.

Game 2 recap: USA 2, CAN 1 (Nov. 17): Canada was first to get on the board Thursday when Marie-Philip Poulin capitalized off a penalty shot opportunity in the second period, but USA’s Kendall Coyne Schofield knotted the score just 1:12 later. Alex Carpenter scored the go-ahead tally with 6:36 remaining in the third to give the U.S. a 2-1 win and a 2-0 series lead. U.S. goalie Maddie Rooney recorded 19 saves in net.

Who’s playing in the 2022-23 Rivalry Series?

Team USA’s roster — led by coach John Wroblewski — for the November Rivalry Series games features 23 players, 16 of whom were part of the silver medal-winning team at the 2022 IIHF Women’s World Championship in August:

  • Hannah Brandt (Vadnais Heights, Minn.)
  • Alex Carpenter (North Reading, Mass.)
  • Kendall Coyne Schofield (Palos Heights, Ill.)
  • Jincy Dunne (O’Fallon, Mo.)
  • Aerin Frankel(Chappaqua, N.Y.)
  • Rory Guilday (Minnetonka, Minn.)
  • Savannah Harmon (Downers Grove, Ill.)
  • Nicole Hensley (Lakewood, Colo.)
  • Megan Keller (Farmington Hills, Mich.)
  • Amanda Kessel (Madison, Wis.)
  • Hilary Knight (Sun Valley, Idaho)
  • Kelly Pannek (Plymouth, Minn.)
  • Abby Roque (Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.)
  • Hayley Scamurra (Getzville, N.Y.)
  • Maddie Rooney (Andover, Minn.)
  • Lee Stecklein (Roseville, Minn.).

Team Canada’s 23-player roster, selected by coach Troy Ryan and director of hockey operations Gina Kingsbury, features 16 players who were on the gold medal-winning team at the 2022 IIHF Women’s World Championship and the 2022 Beijing Olympics (Canada beat , including:

  • Erin Ambrose
  • Kristen Campbell
  • Emily Clark
  • Ann-Renée Desbiens
  • Renata Fast
  • Brianne Jenner
  • Jocelyne Larocque
  • Emma Maltais
  • Emerance Maschmeyer
  • Sarah Nurse
  • Marie-Philip Poulin
  • Jamie Lee Rattray
  • Ella Shelton
  • Laura Stacey
  • Blayre Turnbull
  • Micah Zandee-Hart

Rivalry Series history

Following Sunday’s victory, the U.S. holds a 6-2-1-2 (W-OTW-OTL-L) record over Canada all time in the Rivalry Series. Canada won the 2018-19 Rivalry Series with a 2-0-0-1 record, while the U.S. won the 2019-20 Rivalry Series with a 3-1-1-0 record.

2019-20 Rivalry Series results

Dec. 14, 2019 USA 4, CAN 1 Hartford, Connecticut Alex Cavallini
Dec. 17, 2019 USA 2, CAN 1 Moncton, N.B. Alex Carpenter
Feb. 3, 2020 CAN 3, USA 2 (OT) Victoria, B.C. Hilary Knight
Feb. 5, 2020 USA 3, CAN 1 Vancouver, B.C. Katie Burt
Feb. 8, 2020 USA 4, CAN 3 (OT) Anaheim, California Megan Bozek

2018-19 Rivalry Series results

Feb. 12 USA 1, CAN 0 London, Ontario
Feb. 14 CAN 4, USA 3 Toronto, Ontario
Feb. 17 CAN 2, USA 0 Detroit Michigan

Atthaya Thitikul takes LPGA rookie-of-year honors in stride ahead of Tour Championship

Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand smiles after the birdie on the 6th green during the second round of the TOTO Japan Classic.
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To say that Atthaya Thitikul has enjoyed a breakout rookie LPGA season is a bit of an understatement, but keeping things low-key is exactly how 19-year-old “Jeeno” likes it.

As the 2022 season concludes this week at the CME Group Tour Championship, Thitikul has already captured two LPGA titles, held the No. 1 spot in the world rankings and collected the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year honors. But the current world No. 2 displays a wise-beyond-her-years ethos when she says what she’s most proud of this season is her mindset.

“[I’m]19 years old — I think I’m still young to handle all the things that I have now,” Thitikul told On Her Turf ahead of this week’s season finale in Naples, Fla. “I didn’t say that I handled it well, but I’ve just said that I think I can handle it. I can do it. And yeah, it’s turned out to be pretty good this year.”

To keep herself in check, the Thailand native keeps her philosophy posted on her Instagram profile, which reads, “Be you, be happy and everything will be fine.” Thitikul, who on Oct. 31 joined 18-time LPGA winner Lydia Ko as the only players in tour history to reach No. 1 before their 20th birthday, said she took stock of poor performances on the golf course and found they all had one thing in common: She wasn’t being herself.

“I didn’t have fun,” she says of those unsatisfactory rounds. “I was expecting a lot of results on the golf course, not really talking, not really enjoying it. So I think being myself, have fun, keep smiling, keep laughing and talking with other players or talking with my caddie, joking around — I think it’s the best that I can do.”

Golf has always been fun for Thitikul, who grew up in northeast Thailand and was introduced to the sport at age 6 through her father and grandfather, both of whom were not golfers themselves but recognized the opportunity that golf might provide. Thitikul teases that her grandfather was enamored with Tiger Woods, but after her first golf experience with a professional in Bangkok, she was hooked, too.

“They asked me when I finished practicing, do I like it? And I say, ‘Yeah, I do.’ Because [there were] a lot of friends and when I practice, it seemed fun and it seemed not like other sports that I have been watching on TV,” she recalls.

Thitikul’s ascent to the top of her sport was swift: In February 2017, just three days after her 14th birthday, she made her first LPGA tournament appearance at the Honda LPGA Thailand and finished 37th out of 66 players. Just five months later, Thitikul made headlines when she became the youngest person ever to win a professional golf tour event at age 14 years, 4 months and 19 days old, winning the Ladies European Thailand Championship on the Ladies European Tour (LET).

RELATED: 2022 CME Group Tour Championship — How to watch, who’s playing in LPGA’s season finale

For three more years, Thitikul resisted turning professional, racking up multiple international amateur victories and plenty of tour experience, notching her first LPGA top-10 finish in March 2018 at the HSBC Women’s World Championship (T-8) and earning low amateur honors that same year at two majors, the ANA Inspiration (T-30) and Women’s British Open (T-64). The following year, she won the Ladies European Thailand Championship for the second time in three years, earned low amateur honors at the British Open (finishing T-29) for the second straight year and was No. 1 on the women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking.

In her first year as a pro, during the pandemic-impacted 2020 season, Thitikul broke through for her first professional win in July at the Thai LPGA Championship. She finished the season with five Thai LPGA wins and topped the money list.

Thitikul moved to the LET in 2021, winning the Czech Ladies Open in June, and just a month later she moved into the top 100 on the world rankings for the first time at No. 89. She finished 2021 with two wins, three runner-ups and nine additional top-10 finishes, securing the LET Order of Merit and Rookie of the Year titles and becoming just the fourth player to win both awards in the same season.

After finishing third at LPGA Qualifying School to earn her card for 2022, Thitikul didn’t miss a beat in her meteoric rise this season. She posted two top-10s in her first four starts before striking a staff deal with Callaway, which she followed up by winning her first LPGA title in March at the JTBC Classic. She carded an 8-under 64 in the final round to force a playoff and Nanna Koerstz Madsen on the second extra hole. She earned her second LPGA title in September at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, tying the tournament record of 61 in the second round and beating Danielle Kang in a playoff.

As for the pressure of being a teen phenom, Thitikul admits she can’t ignore it but has figured out how to turn it around to her advantage: “It’s still so hard because I think as players want to be on top and we put the pressure on ourselves, and there’s a lot of eyes on us. … But at the same time, it’s kind of like you couldn’t win every week, you couldn’t have a good day every day. It’s golf. I like to think of pressure as a challenge. I put a lot of pressure on myself, but I think of it as challenging.”

Away from the golf course, Thitikul enjoys spending time with friends, watching Korean television dramas and indulging in Asian food (Chinese and Korean are favorites). Although she doesn’t have a pet, she says she’s a dog person, and prefers the mountains to the beach, as she loves to hike.

But don’t expect too much lounging, hiking or other non-golf activities on Thitikul’s itinerary after this season wraps on Sunday.

“This offseason, we have a lot of work to do,” she says.” There are a lot of things I still have to learn – not just for next year but for [beyond.] … But hopefully next year, it’s going to be nice and good for me as well. I really want to have a major win in my career. I don’t know if it’s going to happen next year, but hopefully.”