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Equal Pay for Equal Sports

Whether it's female soccer stars or teenage prodigies at Wimbledon, women have arrived on the sports pages - to stay.

The change has been coming for years, but this summer could be a turning point in public awareness of women's sports. That's partly due to the near-collapse of one men's pro sport, basketball, and the retirement of superstar Michael Jordan. Sports fans were ready for new faces.

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Women's World Cup soccer leaped into the void, with a television viewership that quickly outpaced such old standbys as the National Hockey League. People recognize not only Mia Hamm - familiar from her TV ads with Mr. Jordan - but US World Cup teammates like goalkeeper Briana Scurry and defender Kate Sobrero.

As with other realms of skill, there's nothing really surprising about women as star athletes. The talents involved were never monopolized by men. Pioneers like Babe Didrikson, Wilma Rudolph, and Billie Jean King exemplified the possibilities. Today's women athletes can realize those possibilities more widely.

The old barriers aren't down altogether. In college athletics, women's sports still compete for equal resources with mens' programs, though federal antidiscrimination law has greatly leveled that field. In the pros, women's salaries, prize money, and sponsorship lag behind men's.

Despite the dominant media attention given women players at Wimbledon, women's tennis has problems winning big sponsors. Golfer Juli Inkster won her sport's career grand slam last month, winning the Ladies Professional Golf Association Championship. She got $210,000. The same weekend, the Buick Classic paid its male winner $450,000.

Those gaps may narrow with time. The public's growing interest in women's sports will see to that. The legions of young women growing up with a love for sports assure that this interest will continue to grow.

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