Interestingly, even the national men’s soccer team has asked the U.S. Soccer Federation to raise women’s pay.
Members of the U.S. women’s national soccer team are seeking more than $66 million in damages from the United States Soccer Federation.
The demand for damages, says The Associated Press, was included in a “slew of papers” filed Thursday evening in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. The case is expected to move to trial on 5 May, unless the two sides come to an agreement before then.
In its own play to settle, attorneys for both sides referenced the separate collective bargaining contracts for the U.S. men and women’s teams. Neither document, says The A.P., has previously been public.
While the women’s lawyers say their clients are vastly underpaid in comparison to their male counterparts, U.S. Soccer says their salaries are, quite literally, what they’d asked for.
“Women’s national team players are paid differently because they specifically asked for and negotiated a completely different contract than the men’s national team, despite being offered, and rejecting, a similar pay-to-play agreement during the past negotiations,” U.S. Soccer said in a statement. “Their preference was a contract that provides significant additional benefits that the men’s national team does not have, including guaranteed annual salaries, medical and dental insurance, paid child-care assistance, paid pregnancy and parental leave, severance benefits, salary continuation during periods of injury, access to a retirement plan, multiple bonuses and more.”
However, Molly Levinson, a spokesperson for the plaintiffs, said U.S. Soccer is misrepresenting the situation.
“In the most recent CBA negotiation, USSF repeatedly said that equal pay was not an option regardless of pay structure,” Levinson said. “USSF proposed a ‘pay to play’ structure with less pay across the board. In every instance for a friendly or competitive match, the women’s players were offered less pay that [sic] their male counterparts. This is the very definition of gender discrimination, and of course the players rejected it.”
Interestingly, The Associated Press notes that, earlier this month, the players union for the men’s national team urged U.S. Soccer to increase women’s pay by a significant margin.
Unlike other major sports, the women’s team has fared better on the international stage than the men’s team, the latter of which rarely qualifies for high-round match-ups in competitions like the World Cup. Yet despite the women’s team having qualified for and won multiple women’s world cup events, its players sometimes receive less than a 1/3rd of the pay accorded to men.
Furthermore, the U.S. women’s soccer team actually attracts more television viewers within the United States than the men’s team. And in the past three years, it has also generated more revenue for the USSF.