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Girls got game, should get gold

July 15, 2015
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer ( , Estherville News

"We love free bases! We love free bases!" That's one of the resounding chants that emanate from the dugout when the North Union Warrior girls are at bat. I'm no expert, but in the weeks I've been covering area softball and baseball, the North Union Warriors have set themselves apart as the most spirited in the dugout. They've also set themselves apart by getting to the Iowa Class 2A State Softball tournament. The Warriors are still girls, and still learning the best techniques of the game, but their boundless energy propels them to run circles around the teams that play more methodically. This is my observation as of today. Other sports in other seasons will see star power and slumps emerge in the regular course of the life of a team.

The good news is, the girls are going to State. Their journey has been a hit, not an afterthought.

On a more visible playing field, but with a similar spirit, the U.S. Women's soccer team brought home the World Cup championship last week. They competed against countries that have been playing soccer a lot longer than anyone in the U.S. has been playing competitively. Yet the winning men's team is paid 40 times more than the women's team according to NBC Sports, the men's purse is $575 million vs. $15 million for the women's team.

Among the congratulations and the petitioning for ticker tape parades in their honor, there were also messages and Tweets (Twitter posts) similar to this one addressed to England's bronze medal team: "[They] go back to being mothers, partners and daughters today, but they have taken on another title: heroes."

Maybe this was taken out of context. To me it sounds like, "Nice job. Now please make me a sandwich." Do we talk about members of the NBA or NFL going back to being partners, sons and dads when the season is over? Or are they taking a bit of time off before the next pre-season camp begins?

It's not only a male/female thing. Serena Williams has won 21 grand slam tennis titles. Anna Kournikova has won zero grand slam titles in singles, and Maria Sharapova five. Yet Kournikova and Sharapova's endorsement money eclipses Williams' endorsement earnings. Sharapova and Kournikova have, for over a decade, been the highest paid tennis players in the world off the courts through endorsements that continue even when they're not playing.

It's not necessarily a race issue that runs throughout athletics. When Magic Johnson was the best player in the NBA, Larry Bird didn't beat him in endorsements. When Muhammed Ali was The Greatest, Gerry Coons didn't get more endorsements.

Serena is an American athlete with an inspiring story of growing up poor, coached by her father on broken tennis courts, coming up behind her sister Venus. Yet somehow that doesn't translate to good advertising.

I know a lot of factors go into finding the right person to be the image of a company. But is that the perception we want our girls whether blonde Caucasians or dark African-Americans or somewhere else on the spectrum to live under when they go out and play their best? Can we get to the point our girls are judged on their playing ability and the hard work and sacrifice they put in to get to the top? Shouldn't female athletes who win big be paid like male athletes who win big? I hope the North Union Warrior girls live to see a world where if they harness their abilities and go for the gold, they'll get it because they earned it.



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