It’s no secret that women get paid less than men in professional sports. In fact, it’s been well documented: The US Women’s Hockey and Soccer teams have both fought against this. WNBA players make on average a tiny fraction of what NBA players do.
The same issue occurs in professional softball despite the sport’s clear popularity and impressive ratings at the college level. One pro pitcher for the USSSA Pride in the National Pro Fastpitch league, Delanie Gourley, took to Twitter to voice her displeasure by comparing her contract to the New York Yankees bat boy’s salary.
Gourley was a four-year starter at the University of Florida, where she was a pivotal part of the Gators’ back-to-back national championships in 2014 and 2015. During her NCAA career, Gourley was twice named an NFCA First-Team All-American and All-SEC, finished as a top-10 finalist for USA Softball Player of the Year as a junior and senior, and threw Florida’s first postseason no-hitter during her freshman year. At El Capitan High School in Lakeside, she set the California Interscholastic Federation record for 1,352 career strikeouts.
After being selected 12th overall by the Scrap Yard Dawgs in the 2017 NPF Draft, she’s now pitching for the league’s Orlando-based team where she helped the USSSA Pride win the Cowles Cup last season. She was also a member of the 2018 United States Women’s National Team and joined the Oklahoma Sooners softball team as a graduate assistant coach in 2019.
Though Gourley didn’t reveal how much she makes in the NPF, other players have come forth about the numbers, and they aren’t pretty. The average salary is between $5,000 and $6,000. Each team has a salary cap of $175,000, and the minimum salary is $3,000.
That means that unless you’re superstar Monica Abbott, who signed a million-dollar deal three years ago, you’re probably not making very much.
Take that $6,000 and divide it by the 52 weeks in a year and you get just $115 per week, or about $500 per month.
The average MLB player’s salary for comparison? About $4 million. The minimum salary for a major leaguer is $545,000. Some quick math will show that over MLB’s 162-game season, a player making the league minimum will eclipse the average NPF salary in just two games. Two stinkin’ games! Even minor league baseball players at the lowest levels make more than $1,000 per month.
Now, obviously there are reasons for this. The NPF doesn’t nearly have the reach or popularity like MLB does. It was formed in 2004, features just six teams and is still growing. That’s fine.
But it can be argued that we — the viewers — help perpetuate this problem. The Women’s College World Series draws plenty of viewers and attention, so why doesn’t that extend beyond into the NPF? These girls are, after all, the best of the best coming out of college softball.
More viewers reportedly watched the 2015 Women’s College World Series — between the Florida Gators and the Michigan Wolverines — than they did the Men’s College World Series that year. TV ratings like that paired with the fact that college teams haul in increasingly huge revenue numbers every year suggest the sport is growing. Maybe it’s something that will take time.
Regardless, players like Gourley who have to scrape by or rely on doing outside work like camps and lessons to grow the sport professionally should be appreciated. So do your part. Get excited. Watch the NPF.