The Equal Pay Fight Continues


Linda Qiu, Staff Writer

A long-running dispute over equal pay between the World Cup-winning U.S. Soccer Women’s National Team (USWNT) and the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) continues with an appeal of a judge’s ruling that dismissed the players’ calls for equal pay.

In March 2019, players from the USWNT sued the USSF claiming that they were not paid equitably compared to the men’s team, as well as alleging they were subject to discriminatory working conditions. They requested over $66 million in damages, citing the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Equal Pay Act allegations were thrown out by U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner in May 2020, who ruled that the women’s team had rejected a pay-to-play structure similar to that in the men’s and received higher base salaries and benefits than male players.

The women’s team settled in December 2020 on the working condition claims, getting a deal to receive charter flights, hotel accommodations, venues, and staff equitable to those of the men’s national team. With this agreement in place, it was able to return its focus to the former goal of their legal battle, equal pay.

Now, the players, led by USWNT member Alex Morgan, are fighting to reinstate the part of their suit Judge Klausner threw out in May.

“This legal case is simple: for each win, loss and tie that women players secure, they are paid less that men who play the same sport and who do the same work; that is gender discrimination,” said spokeswoman Molly Levinson. “In addition, the discovery record demonstrated—including in depositions from current or former USSF executives and Board members—that a pervasive atmosphere of sexism drove this pay discrimination.”

In response, the USSF offered to pursue a settlement to end the legal fight, and stated that though it was prepared for the USWNT’s appeal on the equal pay issue, it hoped for a resolution out of court.

“U.S. Soccer is 100% committed to equal pay. We have offered the USWNT the identical compensation provided to our men’s players for all matches controlled by U.S. Soccer,” said the USSF. “Unfortunately, the USWNT has not accepted our offer or our long-standing invitation to meet or try to find a resolution unless U.S. Soccer first agrees to make up the difference between the Men’s and Women’s World Cup prize money, which is determined, controlled and paid for by FIFA.”

The difference in question is a $400 million bonus pool at the Men’s 2018 World Cup in comparison to $30 million for the 2019 Women’s World Cup.

Oral arguments in the appeal are estimated to be scheduled to take place in 12 to 20 months. The outcome has the potential to impact women in other professional sports as well.


Photo courtesy of UNSPLASH.COM