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Don Lemon and Women’s Sports in the U.S.

USWNT Celebrates Victory in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

After beating Iran in the final group stage match 1-0, the United States men’s soccer team advanced to the Round of 16. As a result because of the equal pay deal negotiated earlier this year, the women’s team will be equally compensated for the achievement.

Both teams will earn 6.5 million dollars from the 13 million FIFA rewards each nation for advancing. That figure is actually more than the women’s team earned for winning the World Cup in 2015 and 2019.

Don Lemon and Women’s Sports Landscape in the U.S.

Sports Gender Equality – Don Lemon and Women’s Sports

Gender equality in sports has become a hot-button topic in the media in recent years. So this news was bound to stir up controversy and diverse opinions. One of the more prominent opinions came from CNN’s Don Lemon. While reporting on this story alongside his female colleagues Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins, he expressed that he doesn’t see this decision as fair to the men.

“I know everyone’s gonna hate me, but the men’s team makes more money. If they make more money, then they should get more money. The men’s team makes more money because people are more interested in the men.”

This response by Lemon seemed to leave the women exasperated. This is a common cry from those who look purely at the ratings of female sporting events compared to their male counterparts.

We Are Seeing This Happen Already in Women’s Sports

It should be noted though while talking about ratings, women’s sports are the fastest growing of any of the major sports in the United States. When Collins brought up this fact, Lemon belittled the fact that it was merely growing rather than maintaining success like male sports. Harlow then pointed out that it is only growing because the media has only recently made the events watchable on television. This past NWSL Championship game which was broadcast for the first time on a major network in primetime saw nearly a million viewers. The previous final was seen by half a million with much fewer media attention and fanfare.

Still, Don Lemon thinks the capitalist market in America has spoken. More people are watching male sports because they prefer them to female sports. It is however more likely that we as a society have become more accustomed to male sports and have easier access to an NFL game on Sunday than an NWSL match at the same time slot. The NFL is actually a perfect example of how disinterest in an event can change with more access to television.

This Has Happened Before in Men’s Sports

When the Baltimore Colts beat the New York Giants in the 1958 NFL Championship, it was watched by 45 million people on NBC. Before that point, the college game was seen as the superior football product and the NFL as kind of a gimmick. But after many viewers saw an overtime thriller that would later be called the greatest game ever played, the NFL was finally on a trajectory to becoming an American pastime.

READ MORE: Potential NWSL Expansion Bids for 2024

It’s obviously too early to say if female leagues like the NWSL have already had that breakthrough moment. Maybe it happened last October at the championship match. Maybe next summer’s World Cup will be that moment for American audiences. But, according to ratings and the evidence of primetime viewing of such events, if you build it they will come.


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