This Pro Softball Player On The Shocking Salary Gap In Sports

This Pro Softball Player

On The Shocking Salary Gap In Sports

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Even before being the first draft pick for the National Pro Fastpitch League (NPF) in 2015, Lauren Chamberlain was familiar with the pay discrepancy between the female players of the NPF and the male players for Major League Baseball (MLB). That reality hit her with more saliency, though, once discussions of her own salary came up.

Here are the facts: the average salary for NPF players is between $5000 and $6000, and salaries top out at around $20,000 (though those are very far and few between). Comparatively, the average salary for MLB players is $4.5 million, with top-salaried players pulling over $20 million. The highest paid MLB player is Clayton Kershaw, who makes $32,500,000 a year.

Chamberlain – who’s been playing softball since she was eight, and received a full ride to the University of Oklahoma to play – is quick to be gracious about the fact that she’s even making money by playing a sport she loves. She says that being paid to play is a huge feat for both male and female players, but that doesn’t change the fact the wage discrepancy “is a bit disheartening.”

Most will be quick to tell you why such a gap exists: fewer people are buying tickets, and fewer people are tuning in, to watch NPF games compared to MLB.

“If there aren’t butts in the seats and people seeing the product being used, companies aren’t going to want to invest their time or money,” said Chamberlain. “But it starts with the viewing. People won’t attend a professional softball game if they don’t know it exists.”

Chamberlain said that what the league and its players are seeking right now is simply an opportunity to be seen. Games are broadcast on TV, including ESPN and ESPN2, sometimes boasting impressive viewership for championship games. However, unless someone explicitly seeks out an NPF game or stumbles onto it while clicking through channels, chances are they won’t even know there’s a game happening in the first place.

That’s certainly not for lack of games, as the five teams play about 50 games each per season. It’s also not for lack of excitement. The NPF teams are evenly matched – though some better than others, naturally – and the players are passionate and talented.

Supplementing a Non-Livable Salary

We know what you’re thinking. How can you live on $6,000 a year? How can you even live on $20,000 a year? We asked Chamberlain how she and her teammates deal with the pay gap, as well as the general lack of support from the sports community.

“If you sit and dwell on the fact that we get paid less and have less respect, it will leave you extremely upset and you’ll lose hope,” she said. “I choose to control what I can control, which is ball out every time I have the chance. It is important to let your game speak for itself and draw in fans that way.”

She said that there’s also a trend for individual players to build their own personal brands, and to do related work on the side that complements their careers and supplements their salaries.

“More and more female athletes are acknowledging how crucial their personal brands are,” she said. “Sometimes it is our brand that make us more money than our physical talents. I personally give camps and clinics around the country, and provide individual and group lessons out of Oklahoma City. I do a lot of speaking engagements and different events throughout the off-season, as well.”

Sierra Romero, who currently plays for the USSSA, does something similar by offering softball camps and clinics to girls. Both Romero and Chamberlain use this as an opportunity to encourage and champion young female players both as athletes and as blossoming women. The end goal is to instill in them this idea that they should “never shy away from anything simply because they are female,” said Chamberlain.

In addition to building personal brands, Chamberlain said that some of her teammates and fellow NPF players are analysts for college-level softball, and that many coach college softball on the side. This works well because collegiate softball winds down in the summer, just as the NPF season begins.

Though these players make it work, there’s still plenty of room to rally around the players of the NPF and to support what they do. Chamberlain said, “Let us show you how entertaining we are and get you to fall in love with our game. Let us have that chance.”

Wendy Rose Gould

Wendy Rose Gould is a reporter based in Phoenix, Arizona. She covers women’s lifestyle topics for numerous digital publications, including Refinery29, InStyle, xoVain, Headspace, PopSugar and ModCloth. You can learn more about her at WendyGould.com.

11 Comments
  1. You came and spoke at Webster MS. Liz with Fields and Futures arranged for your visit. Please know you made a very positive impact on our Coach (Lowery) and myself . Our softball players will never forget to time you spent with them. Thank you, Coach Greear

  2. It’s very easy to get hooked on this game if you are able to see some in person..Few people are afforded this great opportunity..Hopefully more teams enter other markets..

  3. So to get us to watch all i hear is why not give us a try. Well i definately want to but in all the whining i see no info as where to find it and when. I watch Unniversity ball and that took a while to find.

  4. Very well said. There is no mention of the WOMENS Professional softball in the media therefore the public is unaware. My husband and I enjoy women’s softball it’s exciting and the games move quickly. We have to look and see if the games are televised. I think the organization needs to do more to promote the game in the media

  5. Very well written article. I agree with Lauren and the lack of media support. There is never any mention of these teams I the the organization should make a bigger effort to promote these game. When I look up the team schedule there is no mention of any tv or radio channels to watch. These games are great to watch and or attend.

  6. Here are some things that in my opinion can take softball to the highest level. 1. People have to stop saying WE ARE NOT BASEBALL,(executives of organizations ,players , coaches, umpires) We should inbrace BIG Brother MLB like WNBA. 2. Market the girls so that a mother or father can say that is what I want my kid to be like. A role model Like in other sports. The game as grown so much (look at how many travel ball teams are out there now. That equals a lot of kids. If the kids see it ,they want it. ( McDonald doesn’t have the best burgers but kids want to go there because they see it an parents take them there). 3. Be connected to the community. People get to meet or see someone they automatically grow to like that person an want to support them (if it’s a good person). 4. an most important is work with colleges on playing at there fields doing camps ,exhibition games ,An Games times when kids/ teams an parents can go watch.
    Just my 2cents from a parent of a kid that loves this game. Sorry if I hurt or said anything that makes you say he is a —–

  7. Why not create your own Youtuber team? Seems like anyone can make a career in social media today. Wouldnt that be great, to just bypass all the traditional channels that wants you to be like men? Its probably a way forward, to do something different and more modern than “old” TV sports. Maybe some big tech company would hook on to the idea. I used to play softball in Sweden years and years ago. It was a struggle and not for a living, but I love the sport!

  8. If the NPF would simply drop their excessive franchise fees maybe they would draw more serious attention from new potential owners/investors, who would in turn want to increase their ROI by promoting league/team. Forget MLB, the partnership that makes sense is with MiLB. Existing fan base and nice facilities already in place there. As article mentioned, more butts in seats…more money for players, MiLB is clear path to make that happen.

  9. Even if the whole world knew about women’s softball, it still wouldn’t come close to making enough money as MLB does. Look at the WNBA, hardly no one cares.

  10. Truth be told. The only people who care about softball are the people who play it, their families,and a few friends. Have fun playing but don’t plan on raising a family on the wages u receive from playing. Just the reality of the sport.

  11. Why would the ladies get upset about their pay difference? MLB is a business that has operated for over 125 years. What burger joint that has been in business a couple of years says it is not fair that McDolnalds makes more money? Also when you compare the abilities of a man and women at sports there is a big difference in abilities.

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