Top Women’s Sports Moments Of 2022 (Off The Field/Court/Rink Edition)

Highlighting the highlights that didn’t take place during games.

By Elisha Gunaratnam

While records were broken in a number of women’s sports competitions this year, not all of the excitement took place on a field, track, court, or rink. In fact, some of the most memorable moments of the year were those that took place after years of hard work or because of work that was done by those who were not participating in competitions. Here’s a look at some of the best women’s sports moments of 2022 that are not likely to be featured in a highlight reel.

President Joe Biden awards the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to Megan Rapinoe at the White House in Washington, Thursday, July 7, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

NCAA Women’s Sports Thrive

With 6.9 million total viewers, the 2021-2022 season was a record year for women’s college sports across ESPN networks. NCAA gymnastics, volleyball, and basketball championships all received their highest viewership numbers in over a decade. In particular, all rounds of women’s March Madness ballooned by 81% compared to 18% growth for the men’s NCAA tournament. 

The fastest-growing audiences on TV are for women’s sports, and with several major women’s sports events taking place this year, there may be even more records broken in 2023.

Sam Kerr and Sarah Nurse Are Featured on the Covers of Video Games

2022 was a special year for women’s sports in the world of video games; Sarah Nurse became the first female hockey player to be featured on the cover of an NHL video game, Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi were featured on one of the covers of NBA 2K23, and FIFA 23 not only added several women’s leagues for players to compete with, but they also put Sam Kerr on the cover of the game

In an interview with HYPEBEAST, Kerr said “I don’t think I’ve wrapped my head around it. I feel like everyone plays FIFA or is interested in it. So to be the first female on the global cover is incredible … is amazing.”

Sarah Nurse also spoke about the significance of being featured on the cover of a major video game in an interview with the NHL: “It’s the little boys, to be honest, because obviously, little girls, they’re so excited because they’re like, ‘Oh my God, you’re on a video game cover.’ But seeing little boys recognize me and be like, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re so famous. You’re the one on the cover,’ has been pretty cool because once the boys recognize the value of women in sports and understand that women in sports are impactful and here to stay, that’s what we’re going to see change in the game. So it’s not only impactful for little girls to see their heroes, it’s also impactful for little boys.”

The USWNT Wins Their Fight For Equal Pay

The long journey toward equal pay in soccer took a giant step forward in May 2022, with the announcement that the unions for players on the U.S. men’s national team and U.S. women’s national teams had ratified new collective bargaining agreements with the U.S. Soccer Federation.

Most notably, the World Cup bonuses, long a sticking point in the equal-pay fight, will now be split evenly between the two teams. Equality was achieved in other areas as well, with the men’s and women’s teams now receiving identical payments for per-game bonuses. 

The two unions will also receive an even split for commercial revenue, which includes such items as sponsorships and media rights. This is significant because, while other countries such as Australia, New Zealand, and Norway have made steps towards equal pay in some areas, this new deal between the USWNT, USMNT, and USSF goes much further by encompassing a greater number of revenue streams in which equality is achieved, including evenly sharing World Cup prize money and commercial revenue. Both teams will also have access to child care while in camp, a first for a men’s CBA.

Since the deal was announced in May, soccer federations in Spain and Scotland have taken steps toward achieving equal pay between their respective national teams.

Megan Rapinoe And Simone Biles Receive The Presidential Medal Of Freedom

Simone Biles and Megan Rapinoe have won pretty much every award that exists in their respective sports, but in July 2022, the president of the United States recognized them for the work they’ve done off the field and off the mat.  

On July 7, 2022, Simone Biles and Megan Rapinoe were presented with the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

Biles is the most decorated U.S. gymnast in history, winning 32 Olympic and world championship medals. Outside of gymnastics, she is an outspoken advocate for issues that are personal to her, including athletes’ mental health, children in foster care, and sexual assault victims.

Rapinoe, a two-time Women’s World Cup winner and 2012 Olympic gold medalist, is a prominent advocate for gender pay equality, racial justice, and LGBTQIA+ rights. After being awarded with her medal, Rapinoe got back on a flight and helped the USWNT win another championship in Mexico.

Women’s Soccer Breaks Attendance Records In Europe and North America

2022 was an incredible year for women’s soccer. By August 2022, the three highest attendance records in Europe were all set at women’s soccer games. A crowd of 91,553 turned out to watch Barca face rivals Real Madrid in the quarterfinals of the Women’s Champions League, only for that record to be beaten by the 91,648 fans who turned up just a few weeks later to watch Barca play Wolfsburg in the first leg of the semifinals.

Then, 87,192 fans traveled to Wembley to watch England defeat Germany in the finals of the Women’s European Championship. The crowd of 87,192 set a new record for the highest-attended match at either a men’s or women’s European Championship. The previous record of 79,115 was set in 1964 at a men’s European Championship match between Spain and the Soviet Union.

Europe wasn’t the only continent where women’s soccer broke attendance records. The San Diego Wave smashed the NWSL attendance record with 32,000 fans in attendance during their win against Angel City FC. More than 1 million fans attended NWSL games in 2022, the first time the league has reached that milestone.

Kansas City Current Players Break Ground On Their New Stadium

On October 6, 2022, players from the Kansas City Current marched out to the waterfront with shovels in hand. They had the chance to be a part of the first day of construction on their new stadium. 

Once the stadium is complete in 2024, it will mark the first time a women’s soccer team will have its own stadium. It is expected to hold 11,500 fans. 

When asked about the new stadium, team president Allison Howard said this: “Elite facilities are an essential part of the future for this team. Our new stadium will be an incredible place for athletes to compete at their highest level and the additional amenities will ensure that Kansas City fans have an experience worthy of the passion they bring to every match.”  

More Equal Pay! This Time, It’s In Cricket

In October 2022, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced that going forward, India’s centrally contracted women cricketers would receive the same match fee as the male cricketers in the country for all international matches’ appearances under the board’s new pay equity policy.

BCCI secretary Jay Shah announced the development on Twitter: “I’m pleased to announce BCCI’s first step towards tackling discrimination. We are implementing a pay equity policy for our contracted women cricketers. The match fee for both Men and Women Cricketers will be the same as we move into a new era of gender equality in Indian Cricket.”

Earlier this year, New Zealand Cricket (NZC) struck a deal with the country’s players’ association, which enabled the cricketers on the women’s team to earn as much as the male players, and it is reported that Cricket Australia (CA) is working to implement a similar deal

The PHF Continues To Increase Its Salary Cap

In December 2022, the Premier Hockey Federation announced that they would be doubling their salary cap for the 2023-24 season from $750,000 to $1.5 million. The 2023-24 season will be the third season in a row in which the PHF has raised its salary cap, marking a 900% increase from their 2020-21 salary cap of $150,000.

“This historic salary cap increase reflects the strength of our league and developing business model, and supports an enhanced player experience that over the last year has introduced full healthcare benefits, facility upgrades, league expansion, and a record 84-game schedule,” said PHF commissioner Reagan Carey in a statement. “We know how dedicated and selfless these players are to building more opportunities for women in sport, and the PHF is committed to prioritizing our support of these talented and skilled players on and off the ice. Players, alumni, staff, coaches, volunteers, partners, ownership, and our passionate fans have all been working towards ensuring full-time professional hockey is a career path for women.”

Increasing their salary cap is one of the many things the PHF has done recently to improve and popularize its league. They also made a deal with ESPN and TSN before the 2022-23 season to broadcast games, and also announced a $25 million investment from the Board of Governors in January that will go towards player salaries and benefits.

There are big things ahead for the PHF in 2023, starting with the league hosting its All-Star Game in Canada for the first time at the end of January.

She Plays Launches A Fantasy Hockey App

Finally, to cap off some of the best off the court/field/rink moments of the year, She Plays debuted the first full-season fantasy gaming app for women’s ice hockey. The app allows users to participate in a fully-loaded fantasy game that includes live snake drafts, rosters, and head-to-head weekly matches that conclude with a playoff format. 

“I personally love learning more and more about the PHF and ice hockey in general,” Ashley Hart, CEO and Founder of She Plays told The Ice Garden. “They’ve worked so hard to continue to grow and expand, it felt like the perfect fit. Having every game on ESPN+ is also a great advantage for fantasy users to see their players score live and earn them fantasy points. We had a few games last season through our website and had a positive response to that, so we decided to pursue the league for games on our app. Thankfully, they have been wonderful to work with to get things going and here we are!”

Hockey fans can download the app on Apple and Android devices.

2022 was a fantastic year for women’s sports, and with the PHF All-Star Game and SheBelieves Cup fast approaching, and events like the Women’s World Cup being on the horizon, 2023 is sure to be another exciting year. Stay tuned for an article highlighting some of 2023’s must-watch events!

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