An explosive allegation roils professional surfing!
The World Surf League received very much press, deservedly, in September when it became one of the first organizations in professional sports to equalize pay across male and female divisions. Of course you read the many stories. Of course you read the effusive coverage in ESPN, Forbes, The New York Times etc. Deservedly. What a statement moment for the League. Even better than one of its stars getting brushed by a shark while being live streamed in South Africa.
The WSL’s CEO Ms. Sophie Goldschmidt said at the time:
“This is a huge step forward in our long-planned strategy to elevate women’s surfing and we are thrilled to make this commitment as we reveal our new 2019 schedule. This is the latest in a series of actions the League has undertaken to showcase our female athletes, from competing on the same quality waves as the men, to better locations, and increased investment and support.”
Bravo. Except… today it was revealed in Deadspin that there might maybe have been some different opinions behind the scenes, specifically as it related to equal pay and Mavericks. Let’s dive in!
(San Mateo County Harbor Commissioner and member of the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing) Sabrina Brennan said that in several meetings in the lead-up to the WSL’s September decision, the organization routinely claimed that any discrepancies in pay were a response to the smaller pool of women. Despite Goldschmidt’s effusive public statements in support of the change in pay status, emails provided by Brennan show that both Goldschmidt and Graham Stapleberg, WSL executive vice president and general manager of events, had previously been opposed.
According to Brennan and CEWS member Karen Tynan, in a July 23 meeting, Goldschmidt used the term “poor performance” to describe the women’s showing at the Pe’ahi Challenge, despite Paige Alms’s victory in what Surfer magazine described as a “well-deserved win” within a contest that “saw arguably the best top-to-bottom surfing that has ever gone down at a big-wave venue.” At that same meeting, Brennan said that pay equity was more important now than ever. Brennan and Tynan said that Goldschmidt, who became the first female CEO of the WSL in July 2017, made “thinly veiled threats” about not holding the Mavericks event if the request for equal prize money persisted, and called it “an abuse of the #MeToo movement.”
My old pal G. Stapleberg back in the news for the first time since tasting Eddie Rothman’s open hand (buy here)! It makes my heart soar, to be honest, as I forgot entirely that he was still kicking around. Remember The Grahmmies? I will bring them back this year, don’t worry, don’t weep. And don’t worry Graham… I’ll bring you back too!
But back to the story at hand. I’m really trying to understand the context, any context, where Ms. Goldschmidt would make thinly veiled threats about not holding Mavericks and calling the push for equal pay there “an abuse of the #MeToo movement.” You know me. You know that I would like to believe in the relative incompetence of the League creating that context but… to be honest, I can’t even think of a slap-drunk Graham Stapelberg saying something like that.
Ms. Goldschmidt, for her part, denied the whole thing, releasing the following statement:
Those claims are wholly inaccurate and actually the opposite is true, as shown by WSL’s actions in recent years where we have invested in the right to run a competition at Mavericks for the good of the athletes, women as well as men, and the Big Wave Tour in general. We will continue to do everything we can to celebrate Mavericks as the iconic location and wave that it deserves to be, and the athletes that surf it.
I wish someone would employ me to write denials. I would do a much, much better job.