The U.S. women’s soccer team is suing for pay discrimination, citing its responsiblity to the next generation of female athletes.
Members of the United States women’s soccer squad (USWNT) have filed a lawsuit alleging general discrimination and unequal pay, and the suit is not just about a potential monetary pay out. The team members are hoping to improve the sport for women participating in it at all levels. All 28 members of the squad were named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in March.
The U.S. Soccer Federation has said it was surprised by the lawsuit, with its president, Carlos Cordeiro, saying it “strives for equal pay and has boosted its investment in female player development programs.”
However, this isn’t the first time the issue has come up. In 2017, the Women’s National Soccer Team agreed to new terms on a collective bargaining agreement after a prolonged labor dispute over their union contract. Prior to that, in 2016, four plaintiffs filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), but no progress was ever made.
“For us it is really important to really look at the bigger picture of the compensation piece,” Midfielder Megan Rapinoe said, adding, “I don’t think you can talk about compensation articulately or intelligently until you have a conversation about funding across the board. So, whether that is youth teams or staffing for each team or promotion and sponsorship, you know, advertising for both teams, I don’t think that that is equal yet.” Rapinoe continued, “So yes we are fighting for equal compensation, but we are also fighting for this larger picture of investment in both programs equally.”
Nutrition snack company Luna Bar announced after the filing that it would give each member of the squad competing at the Women’s World Cup a one-time payment of $31,250 — the difference in the bonus paid to the men’s World Cup squad. Sportswear company Adidas has also said that if the USWNT win the Women’s World Cup this year its sponsored players would receive the same performance bous payments as their male counterparts.
However, the players said change was also needed outside the United States.
“We are hopeful that FIFA is doing things to put more women in executive positions and more women within FIFA in general,” striker Alex Morgan said, adding, “We still feel like they are very behind on the trend and we are hopeful that what we are doing today and the continual fight that we have will help FIFA proactively change the inner workings of the system that is very flawed within them as well.”
Morgan said all members of the team are focused on improving the lives of the next generation of athletes, as well. “I think we realize the opportunity we have and the resources we have are due to the generation before us and we hope to increase those opportunities and resources available for the generation after us,” she said. “We might not see equal pay among athletes within our generation, but the hope is that the future generations will.”
Of course, the members are still willing to put in 110-percent on the field while the outcome of their suit is being decided. “Success for us is very simple and it is very clear from the first second that you get on the team, whether it is like a passing pattern or a small-sided game or a friendly or a World Cup final — it’s winning,” Rapinoe said. “It’s competing to the best of your ability, it’s trying to be the absolute best that you can so for us the expectation is always the same, success for us looks like winning…It looks like winning the World Cup.”