US Women's Team Fights for Equal Pay
As they kick off their World Cup defense the Women's team wants the same pay as the men and are suing to get it
Possibly the greatest soccer dynasty in history kicks off play at the World Cup this week. While the United States Women’s team (USWNT), kicks off play on Tuesday against Thailand in France, they have an even bigger fight back home, the fight for equal pay.
Since the USWNT won the World Cup in 1999, the team has not only been the most dominant national team in the world, but they have created some of the United States only female sports stars. Mia Hamm, Abby Wambach, Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, and countless other players have been viewed by a generation of girls and boys as their sports heroes. Thanks to their efforts, soccer has now become one of the premier female sports at the high school and college level.
The women’s team has become such a dominating force that they have won 3 World Cup titles since the Women’s World Cup started in 1991 and have won three Olympic Gold medals, winning the Soccer tournament at the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics. They have also been ranked #1 in the world for 10 out of the last 11 years. During that time, the Men’s team hasn’t won a single championship. They even failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Yet between 2013 and 2016, when both the Men’s and Women’s team played 20 exhibition games, the men were paid $263,320 while the women were only paid $99,000. This pay discrepancy led to the USWNT filing a lawsuit just weeks before they were set to leave for the World Cup claiming gender discrimination.
The lawsuit alleges that there is "institutionalized gender discrimination" toward the team and also notes issues with where and how often the women's team played medical treatment and coaching. “The bottom line is simple,” the star defender Becky Sauerbrunn said in a statement. “It is wrong for us to be paid and valued less for our work because of our gender.”
In response to the lawsuit, the US Soccer Federation claims that the pay difference is due to the Women providing different work than the men. Considering that soccer is generally the same sport, the only difference in work is that the women are actually winning and making money for the Federation. According to the lawsuit, in 2016 the USWNT made $17.7 Million in profit, the Federation was projecting a loss of $429,929. This means that the USMNT caused a loss of over $18,000,000.
Thankfully, things seem to be getting better for the women moving forward. In 2017 the Women's National Team Players Association, the union representing the USWNT, signed a collective bargaining agreement with US Soccer that includes significant increases in both direct and bonus compensation for national team players, as well as per diems equal to the men's national team, enhanced travel benefits and increased financial support for players who are pregnant or adopting. Among additional financial implications, the WNTPA gains licensing and sponsorship rights. However, this CBA doesn’t deal with the back wages that the lawsuit covers.