US women to appeal after Californian judge dismisses equal pay case

May 4 – The US women’s national squad have vowed to continue their fight after their globally publicised claims for equal pay were dismissed by a landmark court ruling, handing a significant victory to the United States Soccer Federation. 

Following a long-running and often bitter feud, a federal judge in California last Friday threw out the players’ assertions that they were underpaid in comparison with the men’s national team but allowed complaints of unfair medical, travel and training to proceed to trial next month.

“The WNT (Women’s National Team) has been paid more on both a cumulative and an average per-game basis than the MNT (Men’s National Team) over the class period,” the court said in its 32-page judgment.

In the lawsuit, brought by reigning world player of the year Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and 26 others, lawyers claimed the women were not paid equally under their collective bargaining agreement in comparison to what men’s national team players received and asked for more than $66 million in damages and back pay.

But U.S. District Court Judge R. Gary Klausner rejected that argument saying the women declined a CBA similar to the men’s team in favour of one that offered a base salary and benefits.

“The history of negotiations between the parties demonstrates that the WNT rejected an offer to be paid under the same pay-to-play structure as the MNT, and the WNT was willing to forgo higher bonuses for benefits, such as greater base compensation and the guarantee of a higher number of contracted players,” Klausner wrote.

“This approach – merely comparing what each team would have made under the other team’s CBA – is untenable in this case because it ignores the reality that the MNT and WNT bargained for different agreements which reflect different preferences, and that the WNT explicitly rejected the terms they now seek to retroactively impose on themselves.”

“This evidence is insufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact for trial.”

U.S. Soccer released a statement saying it wanted to work with the team to “chart a positive path forward to grow the game both here at home and around the world.”

“U.S. Soccer has long been the world leader for the women’s game on and off the field and we are committed to continuing that work,” the federation said.

But  Molly Levinson, the players’ spokeswoman, said that they planned to appeal what was a crushing blow to their case.

“We are shocked and disappointed,” said Levinson. “We will not give up our hard work for equal pay.

“We are confident in our case and steadfast in our commitment to ensuring that girls and women who play this sport will not be valued as lesser just because of their gender.”

When the US women won their fourth World Cup last summer, the stadium rang with chants of, ‘Equal Pay, Equal Pay’, catapulting its players into the spotlight.

Last month U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro resigned over language used in a court filing suggesting women possess less ability than men.

Rapinoe, who became the public face of the equal pay claim, tweeted after last Friday’s ruling: “We will never stop fighting for EQUALITY.”

Presidential candidate Joe Biden tweeted his support for the players and threatened to cut off funding for the men’s World Cup in 2026 if he is elected and the women do not receive equal pay. The U.S. are co-hosting with Mexico and Canada.

“To US Soccer: equal pay, now. Or else when I’m president, you can go elsewhere for World Cup funding,” Biden charged.

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