BY MELANIE DASILVA
Three months before the 2019 Women’s World Cup, the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) over equal treatment and pay. The USWNT claims that U.S. Soccer is continuing “institutionalized gender discrimination,” which includes unequal pay compared to the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT).
The USWNT has advocated equal rights issues and requested more equitable pay during collective negotiating two years ago. The 28 players on the USWNT roster filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles under the Equal Pay act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
The lawsuit was filed on March 8, which was also International Women’s Day.
“I think a lot of people look to us and our team and the collective voice that we have and what we’ve stood for, for inspiration and for power, and as an ally in this broader fight for equality and human rights, really,” winger Megan Rapinoe, a co-captain and veteran of 149 international appearances, told the Associated Press.
Both the USMNT and the USWNT have separate collective bargaining agreements and the way they get paid is structured differently. There is no dollar-to-dollar salary comparison between the two teams.
“A comparison of the WNT and MNT pay shows that if each team played 20 friendlies in a year and each team won all 20 friendlies, female WNT players would earn a maximum of $99,000 or $4,950 per game, while similarly situated male MNT players would earn an average of $263,320 or $13,166 per game against the various levels of competition they would face,” the lawsuit says.
After doing the math, a member of the USWNT would only make 38 percent of what a player from the USMNT would make who was in the same situation.
“We believe it is our duty to be the role models that we’ve set out to be and fight to what we know we legally deserve,” forward Christen Press told The Associated Press. “And hopefully, in that way, it inspires women everywhere.”
An example of pay inequality between the two teams is during the World Cup. In 2014, USSF gave the USMNT a performance bonus of nearly $5.4 million after they lost during the round of 16 in Brazil. The USWNT received a bonus of $1.72 million after winning the 2015 World Cup in Canada.
The lawsuit also said that when players made the USMNT World Cup roster to play in Brazil, they each received a $55,000 bonus, while the USWNT players received $15,000 each for making the 2015 World Cup roster. Additionally, it said the men shared a $2 million bonus for qualifying, while the women shared $300,000.
“I am honestly so glad the women’s national team used their voices and spoke up for what they believe in,” said junior women’s soccer player Marissa Giammarusco. “As female athletes, we put in the same amount of dedication and effort to the sport we love, like men do so we deserve to be treated and paid the same.”
While star players on the team can end up making just as much money as the players on the men’s team because of endorsement deals, the gap becomes greater to those on the team who are not known as well.
Following their complaint in 2016 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the USWNT brought their fight for equality into contract negotiations. They achieved a bargaining agreement covering 2017-21.
The lawsuit filed March 8 seeks “an adjustment of the wage rates and benefits” for the women.
The USSF answer is due by April 2.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.