USWNT players sue USSF over wage-gap

Oct 21, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; United States midfielder Megan Rapinoe (15) yells out during the second half against Brazil at Century Link Field. The United States tied Brazil 1-1. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 21, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; United States midfielder Megan Rapinoe (15) yells out during the second half against Brazil at Century Link Field. The United States tied Brazil 1-1. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports /

Equal Play, Equal Pay. A simple mantra that has spoken volumes in just 24 hours for women soccer players

Thursday morning news nearly broke twitter as word spread quickly that five United States Women’s National Team members were filing a wage-discrimination action against the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Hope Solo have collectively stood up to the USSF when it comes to the inequality between the women’s team and their male counterparts. Not only are they suing in regards to the wage gap, but they are also suing in regards to ancillary treatment (this being travel and the conditions of the fields that they are asked to play on much like the incident in Hawaii and the argument against artificial turf). These five are taking a stand against the USSF while others stand in solidarity:

USSF pays the team members of the men and women’s national teams in exchange for some of the top athletes to represent them in international events like the World Cup or the Olympics. Lately, the women have been seemingly been putting more into their game than the men have. The USWNT has four Olympic gold medals and three Women’s World Cup gold medals. How many do the men have? Zero in both events- in fact, for the second straight Olympic season the men will not be representing the United States in the 2016 Summer Olympics.

One of the biggest issues arose publicly when it broke that the men received four times more than the women received for losing in the Round of 16 this past summer than the women did for winning the Women’s World Cup. You read that right- FOUR TIMES LESS. For their championship title, the women were able to earn $2 million in prize money (which generously rose from the $1 million in 2011). That $2 million was divvied out by the national federation between the players and the organization. The men’s team was knocked out in the Round of 16 in their World Cup and earned $9 million collectively. The winner of the men’s World Cup, Germany, was awarded $35 million.

Much of the argument is that the women don’t draw a crowd, how can they deserve equal pay? The revenue simply isn’t there. However, during the 2015 Women’s World Cup held in Canada beat the record of 1,194,221 attendees from 1999 with over 1.25 million who attended the women’s matches and the number of viewers on television or streaming sources skyrocketed to also break more records.

Putting major competition aside, even in just friendlies against teams who aren’t associated with FIFA’s top 25, the women make a significant amount less for winning a friendly than the men make for losing a friendly. The women are able to earn $1,350 for a win while the men bring in $9,375 for a win, $6,250 for a tie, and $5,000 for a loss; even if they lose they get more than the women when they win! The women do not earn anything for ties or losses. The women earn the same for a win in friendlies against teams in FIFA’s 1-25 ranked teams (excluding Mexico) while the men get $12,500 for a win against an 11-25 team or $17,625 for a win against a 1-10 team. The men do not finish a friendly win, tie, or loss without a minimum of $5,000 and the women only walk away with $1,350 if they win. Furthering that, the women do not earn money for qualifying for the World Cup or even advancing in the World Cup while the men do. To say that there is a wage “gap” is an understatement; there is a wage canyon.

To truly understand how much less the women are paid than the men, check out Karen Yourish, Joe Ward, and Sarah Almukhtar’s graphics for New York Times here.

Jeffrey Kessler who is one of the nation’s most prominent sports lawyers is representing the USWNT players. Kessler also represented quarterback Tom Brady during his recent case against the NFL. “These athletes have probably the strongest case for pay discrimination against women that I have ever seen,” Kessler told Sports Illustrated. “You have a situation where not only are their work requirements identical to the men’s requirements…but they have outperformed the men both economically and on the playing field in every possible way the last two years.”

The five team members were on NBC’ “Today” being interviewed and Morgan made the statement “Every single day, we sacrifice just as much as the men. We work just as much. We endure just as much physically and emotionally. Our fans really do appreciate us every day for that…We’re really asking, and demanding now, that our federation, and our employer really, step up and appreciate us as well.”

“I think the timing is right,” Lloyd added. “I think we’ve proven our worth over the years. Just coming off a World Cup win, the pay disparity between the men and women is just too large. We want to continue to fight. The generation of players before us fought. And now it’s our job to keep on fighting.”

There are a handful of USMNT members who stand in solidarity with the women’s lawsuit as well to include goalkeeper Tim Howard who told SportsCenter that the men’s team supports the women’s fight: “We support the fact that the women should fight for their rights and fight for what they think is just compensation.”

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Historically, the men team has plateaued and played with a less than mediocre style while the women have only progressively gotten better while winning major championships for the United States. The attention is there, the athleticism is there, and even where the men lack in gold medals the women continue to go above and beyond so at what point will they start receiving equal pay?