Three FIFA World Cup titles. Four Olympic gold medals.
The U.S. women’s soccer team has gone above and beyond to prove their athletic capabilities and worth on the international playing field. However, the U.S. Soccer Federation seems to see things differently. Despite numerous titles and contributing to booming revenue, the U.S. women’s soccer team members are still paid significantly less than their male counterparts.
Five players on the women’s national team are filing a complaint, accusing U.S. Soccer of wage discrimination. Team members Carli Lloyd, Becky Sauerbrunn, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, and Hope Solo, some of the world’s most prominent female athletes, say they are being shortchanged in compensation ranging from appearance fees to bonuses. The case was recently submitted to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency that enforces civil rights laws against employment discrimination. The five athletes say they represent the entire team.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” Solo, the team’s goalkeeper, said in a statement. “We are the best in the world, have three World Cup championships, four Olympic championships and the USMNT (U.S. Men’s National Team) get paid more to just show up than we get paid to win major championships.”
The federation has collective bargaining agreements with the men’s and women’s teams, but there is a significant discrepancy in the financial terms. For example, a player on the U.S. men’s team can receive a pay bonus of up to $17,625 when they win a match. Female athletes only receive up to $1,350 per victory. Even if the men’s team loses, each player still receives a whopping $5k bonus. Female U.S. players get zilch for lost or tied matches.
But maybe the men’s team generates far more revenue or draws a much larger crowd?
Not the case. The women’s soccer team exceeded revenue projections by $16 million in 2015 when they lead the U.S. to a World Cup victory. They also set viewership records when 26.7 million people tuned in to watch their victory over Japan last year.
U.S. Soccer is pushing back against the women’s legal claim, arguing that the figures they quote are inaccurate. They are also trying to pass the buck to FIFA; however, the women’s complaint primarily takes aim at domestic revenue. The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission will conduct an investigation to see if the women are owed money.
“These women are very disappointed in U.S. soccer,” said Jeffrey Kessler, the women’s lawyer. “When they asked for the same treatment as the men, they were told it was irrational. Now, that might be a good answer in 1816. It’s not acceptable answer in 2016.”
This is not the first time the women’s team has rallied against gender inequality. Last summer the athletes refused to play on an artificial turf field that was deemed unsafe. They argued that the men’s team would never be forced into such conditions.
While opportunities for female athletes have largely improved over the last few decades due to the induction of Title IX, issues of gender inequality still persist in many sports. A tennis tournament director was recently forced to resign after saying that female athletes were “riding the coattails” of their male counterparts. The NCAA has also been called out for disparities in men’s and women’s salaries.
Discussions of unequal pay for equal work have now bubbled over in U.S. soccer.
“We have been quite patient over the years, with the belief that the federation would do the right thing and compensate us fairly.” summed up Lloyd, the team’s most valuable player.