John A. Klassen, PA Minnesota Employment Law Attorney
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Wage discrimination a major issue in professional sports

When the U.S. women's national soccer team won the World Cup, the fact that they were paid significantly less than the U.S. men's national soccer team, despite having a better record of wins, came to the forefront of the country's attention. The team has since filed a gender discrimination claim against the U.S. Soccer Federation. The claim is currently being mediated. However, even female athletes in Minnesota are experiencing employment discrimination based on gender and unequal wages.

For example, the Minnesota Lynx have four WNBA championship wins under their belts this decade, but they are not paid the same as their male counterparts, the Minnesota Timberwolves. Many female basketball players must play on teams abroad during the offseason in the U.S. in order to augment their salary. This is difficult for them physically and emotionally.

This wage inequality lasts even after these players retire from their sport. When WNBA star Lindsay Whalen retired from the sport last year to coach the University of Minnesota Gophers, she was able to negotiate a five-year contract wherein she will be payed $454,000 annually. However, her male counterpart, men's coach Richard Pitino, is paid approximately $2.4 million each year.

However, not all news is negative. Mark Coyle, the athletic director of the Minnesota Gophers hired two deputy athletic directors -- one male, one female -- who are each earning $225,000 annually. And, gender disparity in high school sports in Minnesota is very uncommon. In the end, though, wage discrimination is still a very real issue in Minnesota and across the nation. While a person may not be making the hundreds of thousands of dollars professional athletes do, if a woman believes she is experiencing wage discrimination because she is earning less than a male counterpart in the same position, she may wish to take action, including contacting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and possibly filing a legal claim if appropriate.

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