Five of the biggest stars on the U.S. Women’s National Team filed a federal complaint Wednesday against U.S. Soccer, charging the American sport’s governing body with wage discrimination. The five key players on the defending Olympic and World Cup champion team are co-captains Carli Lloyd and Becky Sauerbrunn, forward Alex Morgan, midfielder Megan Rapinoe and goalkeeper Hope Solo.
In a filing submitted to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency that enforces civil-rights laws against workplace discrimination, the players contended that while the women’s team is a major economic force for U.S. Soccer, its members are paid much less than their counterparts on the men’s team, according to a press release. The players spoke about the complaint on NBC’s “Today” show Thursday morning.
Coming up..the stars of the U.S. women's soccer team speak exclusively about filing a complaint for equal pay pic.twitter.com/qMLaxqlOYm
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) March 31, 2016
“We have proven our worth over the years,” Lloyd said on the television show. “The pay disparity between the men and the women is just too large.”
Drawing on budget figures released by U.S. Soccer last month, the group of players said they earned significantly less than their male counterparts — despite largely outshining them on the international stage — sometimes as much as 40 percent less.
“These women are very disappointed in U.S. Soccer,” the players’ attorney, Jeffrey Kessler, said on the “Today” show Thursday. “When they asked for the same treatment as the men, they were told it was irrational. Now that might be a good answer in 1816. It’s not [an] acceptable answer in 2016.”
The U.S. Women’s National Team has won three World Cups, while the men’s side’s biggest success was likely advancing to the World Cup quarterfinals in 2002.
“While we have not seen this complaint and can’t comment on the specifics of it, we are disappointed about this action,” U.S. Soccer said in a statement. “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.”
The five players who filed the complaint said they were acting on behalf of the entire women’s team. It marks the latest salvo in an ongoing fight between U.S. Soccer and the women’s team players, who have said they are underpaid and have been forced to play on lesser fields. The pay figures were negotiated in a collective-bargaining agreement the players have argued has expired. However, U.S. Soccer has contended the contract will remain in place through 2016 because of an agreement reached in 2013. The EEOC will not deal with this larger issue due to the fact it does not have jurisdiction.
The women’s players are salaried employees of U.S. Soccer, and the top players each can bring in about $72,000 per year. But they contended that their counterparts on the men’s team, who receive money from U.S. Soccer only if and when they are called to play for the national team, make much more because of a bonus structure. A breakdown of the bonus structure, appearing indeed to reward the men’s players with higher payouts, has been published by Sports Illustrated. For example, a men’s team player can make $5,000 for a loss in a friendly (exhibition game), while a women’s team player can make $1,350 for a win — and only a win — in the same type of match.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” Solo said. “We are the best in the world, have three World Cup championships, four Olympic championships, and the [members of the U.S. Men’s National Team] get paid more to just show up than we get paid to win major championships.”
U.S. Soccer does get a bigger FIFA payout for the men’s World Cup than for the women’s World Cup, but the New York Times reported that the complaint filed with the EEOC takes aim “at a bigger share of domestic revenue, like sponsorships and television contracts.”
Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated posted on Twitter that over the last four-year cycle, the women’s team has accrued $51.2 million in revenue, while the men’s team have pulled in $60.2 million and that the women were “trending upward.”
U.S. Soccer reported a $20 million increased in national team revenue last year, which the women’s team attributed to their World Cup win. The sport’s governing body also projected a $2.3 million windfall for an Olympics victory tour for the women in 2016. It’s unclear how long it will take to resolve the complaint filed this week.
To head off "But do the women bring in equal revenues?" bros: Yes. In FY2017 USWNT will pull in $8M more than USMNT: pic.twitter.com/Iof0ZCLCOb
— Danny Page (@DannyPage) March 31, 2016