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Demoted CNN host Don Lemon duked it out with female co-hosts Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins on Thursday over the revenues share for the U.S. men’s and women’s soccer teams. In an upset, Lemon was the most sensible voice on set.
Per the new equal pay agreement, the men and women now split all World Cup earnings. As a result, the women’s team will earn more money from its male equivalent reaching the knockout stages of the 2022 FIFA World Cup than it did from winning its own tournaments in 2015 and 2019.
It pays better to root for the men’s team than to win the women’s cup these days.
One would expect the new CNN morning show to praise such “equality.” Yet the opposite was the case. In a surprising turn of events, Don Lemon rejected the premise that men and women soccer players should receive equal pay.
“Everyone’s going to hate me … I’m not sexist,” Lemon prefaced his comments. “The men’s team makes more money, [so] the men should get more money.”
Lemon’s rebuttal to the policy drew gasps from Harlow and Collins. “The men’s team makes more money because more people are interested in [men’s soccer],” Lemon explains.
He is correct.
Team USA has already earned $13 million thus far in 2022, a total split between both the men and the women. By comparison, the United States women’s national soccer team earned just $6 million in total for its successive World Cup wins in 2015 and 2019.
The difference, as Lemon notes, is popularity. The men’s tournament generates significantly more revenue due to higher ratings, ticket sales, television deals, and advertising.
Now, Harlow blames the disparate interest on the media putting less of an emphasis on female competition.
“Hold on. Hold on! Until big media companies, Big Tech companies, advertisers, invest and put them on their airwaves more and allow people to see it more and gain more fans,” Harlow shouted at Lemon. “Then you will push towards more equality. But if they are blocked in so many ways and not invested in as much, they don’t even have a chance.”
Sports executives push what garners ratings. Viewership is their lone agenda. Networks spend less than ample time on female sports because the interest is so minuscule. Sports sites rarely cover the WNBA and women’s soccer because hardly anyone reads articles focused on said sports.
“You cannot make people become interested in things they aren’t interested in,” Lemon argues.
And Americans, by and large, are not interested in female soccer.
Later, Don Lemon says he wishes the women would earn more but not at the expense of their male counterparts.
“So, I’m saying [the women] should get paid more money, but if there’s more interest in the men’s and more money is coming in in the men’s sports, those men are entitled to that money.”
His female co-hosts didn’t much agree.
Based on the logic that the men’s and women’s soccer teams should earn equally, the University of Alabama football program ought to share its revenue with the men’s bowling team. In other words, there’s no logic at all to the argument.
Still, we can’t get over this banter that took place on CNN. Robust dialogue has become such a rarity on a network so fond of groupthink. Arguing against equal pay hadn’t appeared in the CNN rundown at any time in the last decade.
So, one has to wonder what sparked Don Lemon to exercise common sense on this Thursday morning.
Perhaps he feared he’d have to one day share his salary with his far lesser-paid female co-hosts if someone didn’t dispute the basis of an equal pay agreement.