A major glass ceiling was broken this week.
U.S. softball star Monica Abbott, the pitcher who helped America’s team win a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, has just signed a contract worth $1 million to play with Houston team Scrap Yard Dawgs. This is the most ever paid to a softball player—and any female team sports athlete—in the U.S., according to ESPN.
Billie Jean King, the tennis legend who famously won the Battle of the Sexes match against Bobby Riggs in 1973 and has since become a vocal advocate for gender equality in sports, called the deal “a historic contract for professional softball and for all women’s sports.”
Abbott herself recognizes the significance of reaching the million-dollar mark. The hashtags she used in a Thursday afternoon tweet (#monicamakeshistory, #breakingbarriers) say it all.
“In my mind, it represents an opportunity for the younger players in our game,” she told ESPN. “I see opportunities for other athletes, for the college girls coming in [to the league], for the college freshmen, for the 12-year-olds. I see opportunities for them to only be a professional softball player. To not have to have another career, another job.”
While Abbott has signed the highest-valued contract in team sports, she is not the highest-earning due to some players’ lucrative endorsement deals. U.S. soccer player Alex Morgan will earn an estimated $5 million in 2016, according to the Guardian. Maria Sharapova, who’s been the highest-paid athlete in the world in the past, took home $23 million in 2015.
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While these figures are impressive, they are nothing compared to what male athletes are paid: Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, the highest-paid man in Major League Baseball, will make $34 million in 2016.