USWNT: Fighters On The Field & In The Courtroom
Every so often, news breaks about sports and politics crashing together into one national debate.
We’ve heard athletes, doctors, lawmakers, parents, and NFL officials weigh in about the newly-discovered chronic brain injury, CTE, and its relationship to concussions and football.
We followed the journey of lawmakers, senators, students, and young athletes on their quest to have legislation passed to protect their safety – whether it be preventing smoking during youth sports events or having the safety information published accurately on equipment.
And now news about the legal battle between U.S. Soccer and the U.S. Women’s National Team over unequal pay is taking center stage as the upcoming Olympics and possible strike grow nearer.
U.S. Soccer and the union representing the U.S. Women’s National Team have been going back and forth with court filings and accusations over the team’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and wage-discrimination complaints.
Five of the women’s team players – including Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan – have filed a wage-discrimination action against the U.S. Soccer Federation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The complaint accused U.S. Soccer of paying the team only about a quarter of what their male counterparts make.
Citing the federation’s 2015 financial reports, after their World Cup win the women’s team generated nearly $20 million more in revenue than the men’s team, yet they were compensated about four times less.
The EEOC filing pulled figures from the current compensation structure. A female player can earn $99,000 for winning twenty friendlies. If they participate in more than twenty games, they do not receive compensation for playing those additional games. On the other hand, a male player would likely receive over $263,000 for winning twenty friendlies. Even if they were to lose all twenty games, a male player would earn $100,000. Each game played beyond that twenty game minimum would earn them an extra $5,000-17,625.
According to the New York Times, U.S. soccer has been paying 12 players at least $1 million since 2008, 6 of which were female players. The women are holding their own at the top of the pay scale with the highest-paid making around $1.2 million from 2008 – 2015. Some of the women at the top of the list were even making more than male players.
However, further down the list the numbers begin to diverge. The No. 25 female player earns just under $341,000. The No. 25 male player earns about $580,000. At No. 50, the male players receives ten times more than his female counterpart.
After winning the 2015 World Cup, the U.S. Women’s National Team earned a total of $2 million. In 2014, the U.S. Men’s National Team earned $9 million after their 1-2-1 performance (ending in round 16) in Brazil.
Beyond just the wage gap, discrepancy has been found in the player per diem. While traveling, athletes are allotted a certain allowance each day to cover the cost of food and necessities. The US men’s team receives $75 per day, while the women are given $60.
Equal Pay for Equal Play
To justify the differences, U.S. Soccer argues that although they support equal pay for equal work, the work might not always be equal. To qualify for the women’s World Cup, the U.S. women’s team plays five games in a single two-week tournament. The men must compete in a 16 game-long two year period across North America, Central America and the Caribbean. To reflect that process in earnings, the USWNT earned $15k for successfully qualifying in 2015 and the men previously earned $55k in 2014.
U.S. Soccer Federation President, Sunil Gulati, has also been quoted saying that many factors go into a player’s compensation, including the revenue that the team generates for U.S. Soccer. The men’s team typically brings in higher game revenue for the organization.
However, Gulati’s argument might not be applicable for long. After years of lagging behind the men’s team, USWNT earned more money than the men’s national team in 2015. After clinching the World Cup win, the women hit the road for a 10-city victory tour that gave U.S. Soccer an eight-figure bump to their bottom line. The women are projected to have the same success in the next fiscal year.
In the end, to calm any fear that the women’s team might strike before this year’s Olympics, U.S. Soccer issued a statement saying it is committed to negotiating a new CBA that addresses compensation with the Women’s National Team when the current CBA expires at the end of this year.
USSF filed suit in federal court confirming the existence of a collective bargaining agreement with the union representing the USWNT.