Women cannot play football professionally for free. If they want to play, they can either pay out of pocket to play the full-contact sport in bikinis or pay out of pocket to play the full-contact sport at a specialty women’s league.
The women in the Legends Football League, formerly known as the Lingerie Football League until it was rebranded in 2013, hike, catch and tackle just like their male NFL counterparts. But instead of being protected by body armor that covers the entire body, their uniforms resemble bikinis, which is extremely dangerous for the players.
These women wear sports bras, shoulder padding, knee pads with long socks and clear helmets that show their faces. Their entire midriff shows and their underwear often hikes up, revealing the players’ buttocks.
And how much do they get paid to play this sport? They don’t. In fact, according to Sports Illustrated, the players pay an annual $45 registration fee for public recognition and the honor of playing a predominantly male sport.
But, of course, according to the Sports Illustrated article, the male coach of the team they interviewed gets paid based on the wins and losses of his team. Though, despite my research, the amount is not listed and the coach in the article refused to say how much he was paid.
The one good thing about the LFL is that it offers an outlet for women to play football. It allows these women to be seen playing football. But it also tells women that the only way to be seen playing football is to show off what you’ve got.
NFL players are paid millions of dollars for playing the same sport. One can argue that the NFL brings in more money than the LFL, but denying these women a paycheck is immoral. And forcing these women to pay for the right to play is deplorable.
According to the Sports Illustrated article, these women work other jobs to make an honest living. For example, LeAnn Hardin, who played for the Atlanta Steam in 2015, spent eight and a half years doing logistics for a special ops unit in the Air Force, but playing in the LFL is a way for her to let off steam, according to the article. She just wants to play football.
There is, however, another outlet for women to play football: through an amateur league. In an amateur league, women wear full body armor just like their male counterparts. However, these amateur leagues are also paid for out of the players’ pockets and don’t have near as much notoriety as the LFL.
So, if a woman wants to play football, her choices are to pay to play, show some skin and get noticed, or pay to play, wear proper equipment and remain unknown.
Gender inequality is a huge issue within the realm of sports, especially within the realm of football. For women who want to play professional sports, other than football, their pay is dismal compared to their male counterparts. For women who want to play football, they can’t even get paid and have to work other jobs just to play.
The best way to fix this sexist issue is to draw attention to it. The more people who become aware of this inequality, the more people who will fight against it, and the sooner it can be rectified.
Cartoon by Emily Gist