Poppy Harlow, Don Lemon and Kaitlan Collins on CNN This Morning

As the United States Women’s National Team gets set to earn more money from the men’s team reaching the knockout stage of the 2022 FIFA World Cup than they did winning their own tournaments in 2015 and 2019, CNN’s Don Lemon is wondering why.

Earlier this year, the USWNT reached a settlement in their equal pay dispute with the US Soccer Federation. As a result, the men’s and women’s national teams will split all World Cup earnings evenly. World Cup payouts are allocated and distributed by FIFA. For the 2022 World Cup, FIFA will pay out a total of $440 million to the 32 teams, compared to a total of $30 million to women’s teams in the 2019 event.

On CNN This Morning, Lemon battled the fairness of equal pay between men and women athletes with his female co-hosts Kaitlan Collins and Poppy Harlow.

“I know everyone’s gonna hate me,” Lemon began. “But the men’s team makes more money. If they make more money, then they should get more money. The men’s team makes more money because people are more interested in the men!”

Lemon’s opinion quickly drew a retort from Collins and Harlow as the trio engaged in a nuanced discussion.

“Until big media companies, Big Tech companies, advertisers, invest and put them on their airwaves more and allow people to see it more and gain more fans,” Harlow argued. “Then you will push towards more equality. But if they are blocked in so many ways and not invested in as much, they don’t even have a chance.”

“I’m not sexist,” Lemon declared. “When I go to a sports bar – guys am I wrong? You guys don’t want to say anything,” Lemon added after quickly realizing he was on an island. “When I go to a sports bar, if there’s a women’s basketball game on…people will say, ‘can you flip it to the guys?’ I don’t want to watch this…you can not make people become interested in something they’re not interested in.”

Most men’s sports are more popular than women’s, although soccer is somewhat of an outlier considering the USWNT has historically been much more successful than the USMNT. But just arguing the current popularity of men’s sports ignores the fact that they received a head start. The NBA was founded 50 years before the WNBA, and as of today, the fastest-growing TV audiences are for women’s sports. Many in favor of equal pay and for women’s sports have called for more mainstream coverage to better serve those growing audiences, citing “if you build it, they will come.”

The seemingly unscripted opinion by Lemon prompted a larger discussion of the topic about an hour later in the show. Although the points made were somewhat redundant, Lemon dug his heels in on the subject as he continued to debate with Collins and Harlow for another 10 minutes.

Lemon’s somewhat controversial viewpoint of women’s sports comes just a few days after he appeared on Stephen Colbert’s late-night show and pushed back on the notion of CNN being a liberal network. Earlier this year, Chris Licht replaced Jeff Zucker as CEO of CNN and the new executive has pushed the network to be more centrist in its reporting.


About Brandon Contes

Brandon Contes is a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He previously helped carve the sports vertical for Mediaite and spent more than three years with Barrett Sports Media. Send tips/comments/complaints to bcontes@thecomeback.com