US Soccer needs to close the gender pay gap – now

uswnt wins

by TOM SLATER 

OP-ED: Why can’t the United States Women’s National Team get any love from their federation?

Why do they have to take them to court and file claims to get what amounts to equal rights and pay?

If you could provide the answer, you could mediate between these two groups – which seem about as far apart as you can get right now.

On Thursday,  five high profile female American players filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming that  the U.S. Soccer Federation pays the reigning World Cup champions far less than their male counterparts.

The complaint was filed by five of the most recognizable USWNT players — Carly Lloyd, Lloyd, Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn — who say that each member of the women’s national team is paid thousands of dollars less than the men at nearly every level of competition, including international friendly matches to qualifying games and those in the World Cup.

The five players have hit social media — as well as appearing on the Today Show — to rally support for their case. All tweeted and re-tweeted all day and had supporters ranging from Hillary Clinton to Alexi Lalas to Patricia Arquette chiming in on Twitter.

While five players filed the complaint, co-captain Sauerbrunn tweeted that they did it with support of all national team players.

To get a closer look at the complaint, let’s look at the USWNT’s last 12 months on the field:

  •     They won the Women’s World Cup last summer, peaking in the final against Japan. Lloyd became a household name with a hat-trick capped by a 50-yard chip over the Japanese goalkeeper’s head. The final was watched by 26.7 million viewers, making it the most watched soccer game ever in the history of American television. This was followed by a first-ever parade in the Canyon of Heroes in New York City.
  •       The American women steamrolled through Olympic qualification in February without giving up a goal in five matches. They will try to add to their four Olympic gold medals this summer in Rio.
  •      The USWNT were the hosts of the inaugural, but very successful SheBelieves Cup in March. With France, Brazil and England coming to Florida and Tennessee, the tournament brought together four of the top ranked teams in the world. And the US won again, taking all three games in exciting fashion. The three doubleheaders broke attendance records for each venue.

At the same time, there’s been some issues off the field:

  •      The United States Women were the most anti-turf protesters leading up to the Women’s World Cup where all matches were played on the carpet. The protest continued during the post-World Cup Victory Tour – again all on artificial turf. The protest came to a head when Rapinoe blew out her knee in Honolulu on a field so bad, there were spaces in between pieces of the weaved turf. The women took their protest a step further when they refused to play the contest.
  •         In January, the Federation filed a lawsuit against the players to clear up the confusion with its collective bargaining agreement. The Federation claims it runs through Dec. 31 of this year – ensuring that the team will be together through the Olympics.  The players association says memorandum of agreement can be terminated at any time – thus not guaranteeing the team won’t “strike.”
  •      Now there’s the latest complaint. The women are saying that despite their overwhelming success on the field that generated nearly $20 million in 2015, they are significantly underpaid.

They cite several areas where this is true.

  •   Women would earn $99,000 if they won 20 friendlies. The men would earn $263,000 for the same number of wins and would get $100,000 even if they lost them all.
  •  Women are paid $30,000 for making the USWNT. Men get twice that much for making the USMNT.
  • The USWNT split $2 million for winning the World Cup in 2015. The men’s team split $9 million after going 1-2-1 and getting knocked out in the round of 16.
  • There’s difference in base salaries and per diem as well.  Morgan is the highest paid US female player at $450,000. At least a half dozen men’s players make more.

 So why doesn’t the federation show their appreciation for the females, who are the more relevant team?

Well, they say the already do.

The US Soccer Federation released a rather long statement stating  federations efforts “to be advocates for women’s soccer are unwavering. For 30 years, we have been a world leader in promoting the women’s game and are proud of the long-standing commitment we have made to building women’s soccer in the United States and furthering opportunities in soccer for young women and girls around the world. This includes leading the successful campaign to introduce women’s soccer in the Olympics in 1996, the inclusion of prize money for the Women’s World Cup, and the establishment and support of the National Women’s Soccer League, which is now in its fourth year of play.”

The statement also cited the federation’s support and investment in the National Women’s Soccer League”

We are committed to and engaged in negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement that addresses compensation with the Women’s National Team Players Association, to take effect when the current CBA expires at the end of this year. U.S. Soccer will continue to be an advocate on the global soccer stage to influence and develop the women’s game and evolve FIFA’s compensation model.

After three unsuccessful attempts by private entities to maintain a women’s professional league, U.S. Soccer committed to investing in and administering the National Women’s Soccer League to ensure our women’s players would have an ongoing professional environment in which to continue their careers. As part of this, Women’s National Team players are paid full-time salaries and other compensation.

So where does this leave everyone? Here’s what needs to be done:

  •         This shouldn’t – and can’t – pit men’s fans against women’s. It’s not who is better, who has more fans, and all the rest. The game here in the United States needs both sets of fans to continue to grow the game. As someone who stuck rabbit ears off a portable TV to watch a game in the 70s (Google this sentence if you’re under 50), there is more quality soccer available on various media than ever before – men’s and women’s soccer. The game is the most important thing. Let’s keep it there.
  •    The US Soccer Federation should suck it up now and draw up a new collective bargaining agreement. Like today. Or yesterday if possible. The new contract should take the additional revenue and shore up the obvious inequities – bonuses and per diem right away. And at the very least, the gap in earnings needs to decrease.

Right now, the Federation is playing on the court of public opinion and there’s nobody – except US Soccer’s lawyers, maybe – who is siding with them. They look silly treating the women’s team as second class citizens, considering all that the women have done to grow the game since 1991 — but especially in this decade.

If, like the US Soccer Federation says, it’s about money, they can’t afford to treat the women like this — especially with the Olympics around the corner. The whole world will be watching once again — and you can almost guarantee that the Women will only make their case stronger.


The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Empire of Soccer

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  • John Peros

    It’s very simple. Compare the revenues over the past 5 years by each team. If it shows that the women generate as much $$$ as the men, then equal pay immediately. If not then change the split accordingly. Comparing the $$$ just on last year alone is unfair, it was a World Cup year for the ladies. Another thing, they signed the agreement, no one forced them. Honor your agreement and then when the agreement ends, negotiate a better deal for yourself. What’s the point of a contract ???