In Federal Discrimination Complaint, Women's Soccer Stars Demand Equal Pay

Young fans cheered on the US Women's National Soccer Team at a ticker tape parade in New York after their World Cup win last summer. Photo by NYC Streets (Creative Commons). 

In 2015, the U.S. women’s national soccer team generated far more revenue than the men’s team—$20 million more. But the women on the team were paid four times less than the players on the men’s team.

Now, five of the team’s top players have filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) saying that their unequal pay is a clear case of gender-based wage discrimination. The players who signed onto the complaint are familiar to the millions of people who watched the World Cup last summer: Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, and Becky Sauerbrunn.

“Every single day we sacrifice just as much as the men. We work just as much,” Alex Morgan told  NBC’s Today show. “We endure just as much physically and emotionally. Our fans really do appreciate us every day for that. We're really asking, and demanding now, that our federation, and our employer really, step up and appreciate us as well.”

Women’s soccer players have had to fight discrimination from their managing organizations a lot recently. In 2014, female soccer players from all over the world teamed up to file a lawsuit against the sport’s governing body, FIFA, for forcing them to play on artificial turf at the World Cup. FIFA, in return, threatened to retaliate against the players who filed the suit. Classy. FIFA has failed to fully support women’s soccer for years: Only 23 percent of FIFA Member Associations have dedicated staff for women’s soccer despite the fact that 78 percent of the groups have women’s soccer leagues. In the meantime, the U.S. Women’s National team has been killing it, winning four gold medals and drawing record crowds—more Americans watched the women’s World Cup final game this past summer than watched the NBA Finals.

The equal pay discrimination filing with the EEOC says that women would earn $99,000 each if they won 20 exhibition games. But male players could earn $263,320 each for the same thing, and would get $100,000 even if they lost all 20 games. Plus, women are paid less in bonuses if they make it to the world cup.  

Charts from NBC's Today show reporting on the USWNT wage gap.

“Recently, it has become clear that the Federation has no intention of providing us equal pay for equal work,” said player Megan Rapinoe in a press release today. The players didn’t set out to file an EEOC complaint—in January, they first submitted a proposal to U.S. Soccer that had “equal pay for equal work” as its guiding principle, according to their attorney Jeffrey Kessler.  “U.S. Soccer responded by suing the players in an effort to keep in place the discriminatory and unfair treatment they have endured for years,” Kessler said in a statement today. “This is the strongest case of discrimination against women athletes in violation of law that I have ever seen.”

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by Sarah Mirk
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Sarah Mirk is the former host of Bitch Media’s podcast Popaganda. She’s interested in gender, history, comics, and talking to strangers. You can follow her on Twitter

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