Like many, I was enraptured by the US Women’s Soccer Team and their rise to victory in the 2019 World Cup. Their diehard attitudes, next-level grit, and outspoken conviction for equality touched a chord. It was amazing to see men and women, boys and girls donning team members’ respective jerseys around town. A female sports team had transcended biases and gained far reaching hero status.
The coverage of the team’s rise to victory also shined a bright light on their plight for equal pay. What I learned as a result of this fight is that women’s sports receive only 4% of all media coverage.
As a result of this dismal exposure, female athletes and female sports teams have access to fewer sponsors, get paid less, have a smaller fan base and get less event attendees at venues. Subsequently, this cycle produces fewer role models for all of us, and important stories and change agents often get overlooked or missed completely.
The US women’s soccer team, despite their hard-earned skills and masterful talent, had to prove their value with better ratings, more fan support, and a record number of jersey sales. (Their lawsuit against US Soccer goes to trial May 2020.) Allyson Felix, and her spotlight on female athletes and their contract negotiations, is another example representing meaningful action within this movement. There are many other comparable stories out there like these that inspired this program.
Naturally this discovery around media coverage, or lack thereof, has been sitting with me uncomfortably for quite some time. Not every team has the opportunity of a global stage like the US women’s soccer team, but the larger the megaphone, the more awareness we can create, the greater chance we have at eliciting change.
As such, Sufferfest Beer Company will be launching our Fair Play campaign specifically focused on shining a light on female athletes and sports teams around the world who are showcasing excellency on and off the field. We want to help tell stories that are in need of telling, not only because their achievements garner this, but also because telling these stories have the opportunity to evoke real change for the subject individually, team, sport or the community at large.
Last year we kicked off assignments with journalists around the country who have been tasked to uncover regional and national stories on the track, on the trail, in arenas, and on the streets. Sufferfest will report on these stories from our blog and other social channels to raise awareness for our deserving subjects. Our hope is that these stories leave others educated, inspired, and bring communities together. Some of these stories, however, may beg questions of equality, identity, and cultural mores that should not be ignored. This isn’t a fleeting campaign, but a slow burning, hard fought initiative to move the media coverage dial, resulting in meaningful change to norms and policy.
I know this isn’t an original idea or a profound discovery, but at Sufferfest we strive to live our values as best we can. Fair Play is the manifestation of our sincere effort to contribute to a larger movement towards holistic equality on and off the field, and we can’t wait to share what we’re uncovering. Journalists have been hard at work and stories from all over the world, across multitudes of sports and communities have been streaming in. In the coming weeks, I look forward to kicking off Fair Play with our first story. Please be sure to follow the #FairPlay on Instagram to stay informed and join the conversation. Share your stories. Help us change the game.