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Female pro athletes are paid far less

Posted: August 18, 2013 11:00 p.m.
Updated: August 18, 2013 11:00 p.m.
 

Today marks the second in a five-day series in which The Signal looks at the influence of money in our sports.

For many elite athletes in the Santa Clarita Valley, college is the pinnacle.

Not necessarily because reaching the professional ranks is out of reach, but for many female athletes around the country, women’s professional sports don’t provide the financial security of their male counterparts.

Unlike in major men’s sports, salary information can be hard to come by in many American women’s sports leagues. But from the information that is out there, the disparity is striking.

While the average salary of a Major League Baseball player was $3,213,479 in 2012, according to the Major League Baseball Players Association, the National Pro Fastpitch professional women’s softball league’s website lists player salaries at $3,000-$6,000 for a three-month season.

“It’s tough to see these kids earning millions of dollars and they’ve never proven anything,” said Valencia graduate Jordan Taylor, who is a pitcher in the NPF. “They’ve proven they can hit a fastball, and that’s it. It’s a little frustrating.”

In the NBA, the maximum salary for the 2013-2014 season is set at $19.181,750, but could in practice be even higher due to built in
exceptions. Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, for example, is due to make $27,849,149 due to rules that ensure a player’s new contract is never less than 105 percent of the last year of his previous contract. The minimum allowable salary in the NBA next season? $490,180.

That $19.18M mark in the NBA is about 179 times as much as the maximum WNBA salary of $107,000 — with a minimum salary of $37,950, according to the WNBA collective bargaining agreement.

The numbers were similar three years ago during Hart graduate Taylor Lilley’s last season in the WNBA. That season, in 2010, salaries began at $34,500. In contrast, the lowest NBA contract started at $473,604 that same season.

In the Santa Clarita Valley, the Santa Clarita Blue Heat play in the W-League, considered a Tier-2 American women’s soccer league.

According to Blue Heat owner Carlos Marroquin, many of the players, including every American born athlete on the team, were unpaid.

In contrast, the North American Soccer League, a Tier-2 American soccer league for men, had salaries between $15,000 and $100,000 in 2010, according to the Houston Chronicle.

“It is unfortunate,” says Saugus head softball coach Julie Watson, who spent two seasons playing for the Texas Thunder in the NPF. “There is an NPF, but it’s not obviously (comparable) to baseball. I think we’re fortunate to get the college education and continue on. I wish it was a little bit bigger for the girls. Hopefully it will get there.”

In addition to Watson, the Santa Clarita Valley has also seen Olympic Gold medalist and Canyon graduate Crystl Bustos play in the league.

Hart graduate Jessica Shults and Taylor currently play in the NPF, coincidentally on the same team — the USSSA Pride.

Taylor and fellow 2007 Valencia graduate and National Football League player Shane Vereen both excelled at their respective sports in high school and college.

And both have risen to the professional ranks to the tune of vastly different paychecks.

According to spotrac.com, Vereen signed a four-year, $3,461,150 contract as a rookie in 2011. Taylor leaves the United States to play in Japan — where she says there is less disparity between male and female pay — during the NPF offseason to supplement her income.

“Both of us love what we do, and unfortunately he’s earning a lot more than me ... The same motivation is there. It’s the same inherent love for the game,” Taylor said. “It’s tough knowing that he’s earning all this money.”

Signal Staff Writer Dan Agnew
contributed to this report

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