Women soccer champs deserve fair pay

At the U.S. Women’s Soccer World Cup Victory Parade in New York City on July 10, 2019, United States Soccer Federation (USSF) President Carlos Cordeiro was interrupted during his speech as loud “Equal Pay” chants erupted from the crowd. 

Following his speech, Captain Megan Rapinoe took to the podium and declared that the team is “just so badass.” She continued, “We have pink hair and purple hair. We have tattoos and dreadlocks. We got white girls and black girls, and everything in between. Straight girls and gay girls!” The crowd burst out in cheers. 

This past summer, the United States Women’s National Soccer Team won their fourth World Cup title, capturing the hearts of millions of fans along the way. The USWNT is not only extremely talented and successful at their sport, but they are activists and have spoken up about many social and political issues, one of the biggest being their fight for equal pay. 

The team has been fighting for equal pay since 2016, when five high profile players — Carli Lloyd, Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, and Becky Sauerbrunn — filed a complaint against USSF with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC never issued a decision on the case, and this year the push ramped up again. 

On March 8, 28 members of the USWNT filed a lawsuit against U.S. Soccer accusing it of gender discrimination, claiming it “has a policy and practice of discriminating” against members of the women’s national team on the basis of gender. 

The algorithms of how exactly these athletes get paid is complicated, but the current lawsuit states that if the men’s and women’s teams won each of the 20 non-tournament games they are required to play in their contract, the women’s team players would each earn a maximum of $99,000 ($4,950 per game), and the men’s team players would earn $263,320 ($13,166 per game). Additionally, female players earned $15,000 for making the national team from 2013 to 2016, while male players earned $55,000 in 2014 and $68,750 in 2018.

Not only is the players salary an issue, many women have also expressed frustration about institutional favoritism toward men and the disparity in playing and traveling conditions. For example, this past year FIFA scheduled two men’s tournament finals on the day of the Women’s World Cup final. The women’s team also flies on fewer chartered flights than the men do, and play on more artificial turf rather than natural grass, which is harder on the body.

The USSF’s formal response to the lawsuit claimed that the differences in pay are based on differences in the revenue generated by each team. This argument doesn’t even hold up according to audited financial statements obtained by the Wall Street Journal, which shows that the women have actually earned more in ticket sales over the past three years. 

There is absolutely no foundation to the argument by the USSF not to pay the USWNT at least the same as the USMNT, and at this point it just seems completely illogical. The women have had exceedingly more success, winning four World Cups while the men have won none, and solely for this reason it makes sense to pay the women at least the same, if not more. 

Additionally, the women’s team has attracted much more publicity and acclaim, especially after this past summer. They have had a huge impact on society as a whole, not only as athletes but as activists too. They use their platform to bring attention to important political and social issues, and publicly model the values of acceptance and diversity. These women serve as role models for young girls everywhere who have big dreams in sports and who are looking to professional athletes to see that their demands for equal pay will be validated, and that it isn’t just the status quo for female athletes to be paid less than their male counterparts. 

The team outlined a solution in their lawsuit against U.S. Soccer where player compensation would be directly linked to how much revenue each team generates. I hope this lawsuit is won, and these inspiring women are finally rewarded equally for their extraordinary success and hard work.