Soccer traditionally functions with two cards flashed by the referee to govern play. Yellow is a warning for misplay and red means ejection.

Members of the U.S. team in the Women’s World Cup, who compete for a championship on this day, have taken to playing a third card, that of the victim.

Foremost is Megan Rapinoe, who had availed herself of the figurative megaphone provided by playing in the World Cup and told an interviewer “I’m not going to the (expletive) White House.” 

This came in response to an inquiry regarding her thoughts should the team win and be invited.

Added Rapinoe, “We’re not going to be invited. I doubt it.”

President Trump, as is his wont, took to Twitter to suggest Rapinoe win first, but then invited the team to the White House – win or lose.

Since then, Rapinoe has gone public to lament the criticism she’s received for her White House remarks and to boast of her patriotism to her many detractors.

More recently, she’s been heard to gripe that the championship game against The Netherlands will not be the only significant soccer game of the day. Such an insult!

“Ridiculous and disappointing,” said Rapinoe of the fact that the Copa America (South American men’s championship) and the CONCACAF Gold Cup (North and Central American men’s championship) also will be played Sunday. The former will have Brazil vs. Peru and the latter, Mexico vs. the U.S.

Earlier in this Women’s World Cup, the U.S. players came in for considerable criticism for celebrating like so many lottery wins each and every goal in a 13-0 demolition of Thailand. Just having fun, said they.

After scoring the winning goal against England, U.S. player Alex Morgan pantomimed drinking tea, her pinky finger extended and all. 

This didn’t play well worldwide, particularly in England.

There is irony here because an ongoing theme by the U.S. Women’s team members has been their complaint about the lack of equal pay compared with the U.S. men on the national team. 

At least the women have more than achieved parity in terms of over-the-top celebrations.

At the risk of injecting reality into the sporting world, here’s a reminder to those who don’t seem to understand – pro sports is a realm in which traditional governmental regulations do not necessarily apply.

Let’s begin with anti-trust laws designed to prevent monopolies and restraint of trade. In ordinary business, there are no limitations on how many companies can enter a particular area. 

Yet pro sports leagues routinely limit how many teams they have and where they are based.

Baseball first got its anti-trust exemption in 1922 and the Supreme Court refused to hear challenges to it as recently as a year ago. 

The NFL has an anti-trust exemption in the matter of negotiating television contracts, as do baseball, basketball and hockey.

Sports also are different from the outside world in terms of employee mobility. The average student comes out of college and can be hired by any company that wants him or her. In sports, pro teams draft players and said player has to sign with that team, or sit out a year and go through the draft process again.

Even that doesn’t mean someone who has his heart set on playing for the New York Yankees can wait some extra time, knock on the door of Yankee Stadium, and sign a contract if one is offered.

Veteran players also have various limits on their movement. In exchange for giving up freedoms these athletes, for the most part, make a whole lot more money than the average worker.

Back to soccer, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, signed by President John F. Kennedy and mandating men and women working similar jobs in the same company be paid the same, doesn’t apply to sports.

As was pointed out in a March article in Forbes Magazine, the Men’s World Cup brings in revenue that is many multiples what the women’s soccer event generates. In that article, it was noted that in past World Cups the women actually have gotten a higher percentage of the revenues than the men, but the larger cut was from a vastly smaller pie.

The federal government can enforce Title IX regulations to require equality opportunity in college sports for men and women. 

It can’t create equality of interest for pro sports, either within our borders or around the world. 

If and when women’s soccer becomes as popular worldwide as the men’s game, the women’s pay likely will rise to reflect that.

Until such time, economic reality is going to intrude into the land of fun and games.

A glowing exception is the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July hot dog eating contest, which aired on ESPN, so I know it’s a sport, just like baseball, football, basketball, baseball, and, of course, spelling bees.

Joey “Jaws” Chestnut wolfed down 71 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes to claim his 12th men’s title. Miki Sudo ate 31 dogs and buns to repeat as the winner of the women’s division.

The good news, as reported by The Sporting News, is that each received $10,000 in prize money for the win.

Maybe Rapinoe and the soccer women should take up competitive eating and thereby achieve equality with men in compensation, if not in consumption.

 

Sam Ross Jr. is a freelance journalist who writes a weekly column for The Tribune-Democrat.