US Women’s Soccer: Is the Fight for Equal Pay Over?

Written by John Winer:

Despite their tremendous achievements including four World Cup wins and four gold medals, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) continues their fight for gender pay equity. According to Salary.com, the nation’s finest female soccer athletes lag behind their male counterparts in terms of earnings, and last year, the team decided to fight back by filing a lawsuit for gender discrimination. The lawsuit accused the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) of pervasive discriminatory treatment that affected everything from the players’ paychecks to the fields where they played and the accommodations they were given during competitions. A recent ruling on that lawsuit may have people wondering if the fight for equal pay may be over for them.

In March 2019,  28 players from the USWNT took a stand against gender pay discrimination by filing a class-action lawsuit against the USSF, claiming they were being paid less than the men’s national team and were met with less support, despite their enormous success. The team was seeking $66 million in damages under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. According to Business Insider, the USSF asked the judge to dismiss the case entirely, claiming, “the men’s and women’s players perform such different jobs that there’s no basis for a direct comparison between the two and thus no grounds for a discrimination lawsuit.”

Earlier this month, a federal judge dealt a heavy blow for the USWNT by ruling in favor of the U.S. Soccer Federation, claiming he would not allow the equal pay allegations to go forward because the women’s national team had previously rejected an offer to be paid under the same pay-to-play structure that the USMNT has and accepted greater base salaries and benefits. According to Forbes, players from the USWNT argued that although they were paid more, they would have been compensated more had they had the same contract the men’s team had. Although some initial reports claimed their legal battle may be over, the team players dismissed that assumption by filing two motions a week after the ruling, allowing them to appeal and postpone the trial which was scheduled for June.

As the Women’s Sports Foundation reports, the USWNT has been long associated with leading the way in the fight for gender equality in soccer and although they may have suffered a major setback, their fight is not over. Since 2015, the women’s national team has been more popular and has generated more revenue for the soccer federation than the men’s national team, yet still make less than them in the larger scale, revealing the unfairness the players are subjected to. The fight between the USWNT and the Federation exposes how little has changed in the fight for equal rights and against gender discrimination. If organizations such as the USSF continue to remain ignorant of this issue and fail to address it, the issue of gender pay inequity will never be resolved. They need to take action, and that means acknowledging the issue and allowing women to speak about it as well as implementing real policy change.