It's no secret that female athletes 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 professional softball player for the USSSA Pride in the National Pro Fastpitch League (which suspended operations in August 2021), Delanie Gourley, took to Twitter (the tweet has since been deleted) to voice her displeasure by comparing her contract to the New York Yankees bat boy's salary.
Pro Softball Player: Yankees Bat Boy Makes More Than I Do
"The Yankees bat boy salary is more than my professional softball contract. Lmaooo not trying to burn myself but when will softball get some respect," Gourley wrote in the since-deleted tweet.
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. 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.
National Pro Fastpitch Salary
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Though Gourley didn't reveal how much she makes in the NPF, other NPF 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 in women's professional sports.
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.
Note: The NPF suspended league operations in August 2021.
Athletes Unlimited Salary
In Athletes Unlimited, a new professional softball league, the salary is certainly higher. According to the Orlando Sentinel, players in that league make a base salary of $10,000 for a six-week season and can take home as much as $25,000 with additional achievements.
The average MLB player's salary for comparison? About $4 million. The minimum salary for a major leaguer is $563,500. Some quick math will show that over Major League Baseball's 162-game regular 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 professional fastpitch softball leagues? 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. In 2021, the WCWS was the most watched in history on ESPN...ever.
?Most-Viewed #WCWS ?????
? Entire WCWS averaged ?,???,??? viewers | ? 10% over 2019
? Championship Series between @OU_Softball & @FSU_Softball averaged ?,???,??? viewers | ? 15% over 2019 pic.twitter.com/CjdRaZexeK
— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) June 11, 2021
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.
Women's sports are on the rise. Just look at ESPN's ratings from the Women's College World Series or the popularity of the game at the 2020 Summer Olympics. It's time these ladies earn more money.
This article was originally published April 5, 2019.
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