Column: A victory for equality

United States teammates practice with fans holding support signs in preparation for the IIHF Women's World Championship hockey tournament, Thursday, March 30, 2017, in Plymouth, Mich. USA Hockey and the women's national team agreed to a contract Tuesday night that ended a wage dispute. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

After months of negotiation, a boycott and shady invitations to high school players by the U.S. Hockey federation, U.S. women’s hockey players and USA Hockey struck a new agreement on March 28 to close the wage gap.

With the new agreement, U.S. hockey will increase the players’ pay, allocate money for compensation and promote the sport. It will also increase payment from $6,000 every four years to almost $70,000 every year.

“USA Hockey pays us, as the women's players, only during a six-month period of time out of the four-year Olympic cycle,” team captain Meghan Duggan told NPR. “During that six months, USA Hockey pays the players $1,000 a month for a six-month period. The remaining three and a half years, USA Hockey pays the players virtually nothing.”

The team has had success for the last few years, as they have medaled in all five Olympic Games that featured women’s hockey and won the world championships seven times since 2000.

Before this happy ending, the relationship between players and U.S. Hockey grew tense. The actions by the players were celebrated by social media where people used the hashtag #beboldforchange.

UConn women’s ice hockey coach Chris MacKenzie believed it was the right thing to do for the players.

“I feel the next step was boycotting international play,” MacKenzie said. “The team tried for 14 months to resolve the issues they felt were important with no progress. A ‘boycott’ was the next logical move.”

After the women announced the boycott, U.S. Hockey started to look for replacement players and reached the high school ranks.

Many players declined the invitation.

It is embarrassing, in poor taste and unbelievable that U.S. Hockey would rather recruit players than pay the women’s team what they deserve.

“I was disappointed to learn this because at the time there was negotiations between the team and USA hockey,” MacKenzie said. “If you're negotiating in ‘good faith’ you should not be taking a course of action that contradicts your intentions.  It was a move to create leverage in USA Hockey's favor

As in the case with the U.S. women’s soccer team, the federations are sending a message of “be happy you are able to play.”

However, that is no longer enough for these athletes who work hard and represent the United States in international play and their teams in domestic competition.

Women’s sports continue to fight a battle of less coverage, underfunding and poor pay.

Many will say that women’s sports don’t deserve equal pay because there is not enough interest in the sports.

If you’re negotiating in ‘good faith’ you should not be taking a course of action that contradicts your intentions.  It was a move to create leverage in USA Hockey’s favor.
— UConn women's hockey head coach Chris MacKenzie

How can you create interest when they are never on TV?

According to a 2015 study published by the University of Southern California, women’s sports are now shown even less than they were in 1989.

“When it began, women rarely appeared, except to be portrayed as sex objects or the butt of a joke,” the study says. “Over time, that overt sexism has been replaced by a general absence of women altogether: women’s sports are rarely covered, and when female athletes are interviewed in any depth, it’s to portray them as mothers or girlfriends, including to stress those roles over their role as an athlete.”

In 2014, L.A. based network affiliates devoted only 3.2 percent of airtime to women’s sports. ESPN’s “SportsCenter” gave women’s sports a coverage ratio of two percent and hasn’t changed since 1999.

TV is one of the main ways sports such as football, men’s basketball and baseball are popularized and get money to pay their players.

How can people get into the WNBA, NWSL and WNHL if they are never on TV, and how can these leagues find a solid fan base if they don’t have the TV contracts to grow the sport?

I’m sure ESPN could decrease their coverage of bowling or poker and maybe devote more time to women’s sports.

Women’s sports are not boring, and some of the greatest sporting performances during the Olympics and international play are done by women.

Carli Lloyd, Allison Felix, Katie Ledecky and Serena Williams are among the many women who proudly represent the United States.

The women’s hockey team has gained much, but it took a long time.

On Friday, they will play in Plymouth, Michigan against Canada.

Will this trend continue? I hope so. It’s time for women’s sports to be recognized, celebrated and covered.

More importantly, it’s time for female athletes to be compensated appropriately.  


Daniela Marulanda is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at daniela.marulanda@uconn.edu.