Better late than never
Last week’s announcement by ESPN that female athletes will be paid the same amount in prize money as their male counterparts at the Winter X Games officially ushered the Aspen event into the 21st century.
Pay inequity in athletics long has been an issue, be it in the corporate suites or on the playing fields. And the X Games certainly isn’t the first sporting event to pay men more than women.
It was not until 2007 that the most prestigious event in tennis, Wimbledon, paid female athletes the same prize money as males, following the cue of the French Open, which announced a year earlier that the purse would be the same for both genders.
According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, male vice presidents of corporations that sponsor sporting events received salaries 70 percent higher than women in the same positions in 2000.
To be fair, sports executives have defended the pay gap, arguing that male athletic events pay the bills, whether it’s through tickets sales, TV ratings or sponsors.
So it’s not always a clear-cut argument, but we are confused about ESPN’s pay gap for its athletes, considering that one of the hallmarks of the X Games franchise has been its progressive, going-against-the-grain, ultra-hip approach to sport. We cannot help but notice that, when it comes to payoffs, this so-called trend-setting event had been operating like a good ol’ boys club ” until just recently.
Just as ironic is that ESPN, the title sponsor of both the summer and winter X Games, has done investigative reports on the discrepancies of pay for male and female athletes.
Apparently discussions began in 2006, when the nonprofit skateboard foundation Alliance began to lobby X Games brass for equal pay.
“This is a positive thing,” X Games spokeswoman Katie Moses Swope recently told The Aspen Times. “We felt we wanted to recognize the talent and the caliber of these athletes. You’re going to have differences in talent in the X Games, but how athletes have progressed in certain disciplines, that’s how we based our decision.”
Whether Moses Swope is spinning, we’ll never truly know. All we do know is that, while we certainly support ESPN’s decision, we wonder why this didn’t happen at the event’s inception 13 years ago.
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