Twice the money, half the wage. US women take USSF to court over pay discrimination

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By Andrew Warshaw

April 1 – Five senior members of the World Cup-winning US national women’s team have filed a legal challenge over wage discrimination having consistently outstripped the achievements of their male counterparts.

The wage discrimination federal complaint lodged with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) comes from Carli Lloyd, who scored a hat-trick against Japan in last July’s final, Becky Sauerbrunn plus goalkeeper Hope Solo, midfielder Megan Rapinoe, and the highest-paid player in the team, striker Alex Morgan.

Although Morgan has been reported to collect a seven-figure income, much of it apparently comes from endorsements, with US women’s team claiming their basic earnings and bonuses from USSF are significantly short of what the men earn. In fact the five claim they are paid less than half of what the male players receive despite generating nearly $20 million more in revenue.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” said Solo. “We are the best in the world, have three World Cup Championships, four Olympic Championships, and the USMNT [men’s team] get paid more just to show up than we get paid to win major championships.

“In this day and age, it’s about equality. It’s about equal rights. It’s about equal pay. We’re pushing for that. We believe now the time is right because we believe it’s our responsibility for women’s sports and specifically for women’s soccer to do whatever it takes to push for equal pay and equal rights. And to be treated with respect.

“I’ve been on this team for a decade and a half, and I’ve been through numerous CBA negotiations, and honestly, not much has changed,” she said. “We continue to be told we should be grateful just to have the opportunity to play professional soccer, to get paid for doing it.”

Lloyd, who was named the best player at last year’s World Cup, said their patience had run out. “There are no more excuses,” she said. “I think we’ve proven our worth over the years. Just coming off a World Cup win, the pay disparity between the men and women is just too large.”

The players claim their triumph in Canada last summer transformed the finances of the USSF but has not been passed on accordingly.

Sauerbrunn said the whole team backed the action. “Five players signed the complaint, but the decision to file was whole-heartedly supported by the entire team,” she tweeted.

Jurgen Klinsmann’s men’s team collected $9m for reaching the World Cup’s last 16 in Brazil, compared to the $2m shared between the women’s squad side that went all the way in  Canada. The complaint also covers match fees for friendlies, stating the pay is almost three times higher for men.

The complaint may raise eyebrows in countries where the women’s game has traditionally lagged behind but in the United States it has long shared parity in terms of popularity and professionalism. One of the lawyers representing the players, Jeffrey Kessler, said it was time to address the “discriminatory and unfair treatment” the women have endured for years.

The US national women’s team also won the inaugural World Cup in 1991 and repeated that success eight years later at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Last summer’s 5-2 defeat of Japan made them the first team to lift the trophy three times.

“This is the strongest case of discrimination against women athletes in violation of law that I have ever seen,” Kessler was quoted as saying.

A statement from US Soccer responded: ““We are disappointed about this action. We have been a world leader in women’s soccer and are proud of the commitment we have made to building the women’s game in the United States over the past 30 years.”

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