The US women's hockey team says it is prepared to boycott the World Championships in a fight over 'fair wages and equitable support'

The United States women’s national ice hockey team announced on Wednesday that it will not play in the upcoming IIHF World Championship unless “significant progress has been made on the year-long negotiations with USA Hockey over fair wages and equitable support.”

The tournament begins on March 31 in Plymouth Michigan, but the Americans said that after a year of stalled negotiations with USA Hockey they are prepared to not show up to training camp in Michigan on March 21.

The team is currently the defending world champion, and have won six of the last eight World Championships. However, they feel that USA Hockey has not compensated them accordingly.

“We are asking for a living wage and for USA Hockey to fully support its programs for women and girls and stop treating us like an afterthought,” captain Meghan Duggan said, according to ESPN. “We have represented our country with dignity and deserve to be treated with fairness and respect.”

In the past, the women on the team have earned $US1,000 a month during the six-month residency period leading up to the winter Olympics. But the players say that they are paid virtually nothing by USA Hockey during the rest of the time, and instead make the bulk of their money from the U.S. Olympic Federation.

“It is a full-time job and to not get paid is a financial burden and stress on players obviously. That is the conversation my husband and I are having right now,” said team member Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson. “Is playing going to be more stress than we can handle? Sadly it becomes a decision between chasing your dream or giving in to the reality of the financial burden.”

As ESPN noted, national governing sports bodies are required to provide equal support for men’s and women’s teams. The women’s hockey team does not feel this is the case. From ESPN:

“The Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act requires national governing sports bodies to “provide equitable support and encouragement for participation by women where separate programs for male and female athletes are conducted on a national basis,” as is the case in hockey. According to the players, USA Hockey spends approximately $US3.5 million annually to support a schedule of more than 60 games a season for boys participating in its national team development program. There are no comparable development opportunities for girls.”

The fight over fair wages is not unique to the women’s ice hockey team. The US women’s national soccer team, too, is locked in a battle with the US Soccer Federation over equal pay. Last March, five members of the women’s soccer team filed an anti-discrimination lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation.

The women’s hockey team cited the women’s soccer team as pioneers for their boycott.

“We are fortunate to have strong pioneers who have changed the landscape of their sport. Figures such as Billie Jean King or teams like U.S. women’s soccer have built a foundation not only for hope, but for action. As leaders in the sport of hockey, we are asking for equitable support and encouragement for participation for women,” said player Hilary Knight. “This is another important step for women in sports, but also for women at large and for generations to come in our fight for equal pay and support.”

Added assistant captain Monique Lamoureux-Morando:

“It’s hard to believe that, in 2017, we still have to fight so hard for basic equitable support. But when I think about the women who paved the way for our team — and when I see girls at rinks around the country who are dedicated to pursuing big dreams and look to us to lead by example — it’s well overdue for us to speak up about unfair treatment, even if it means sacrificing an opportunity to represent our country. We owe the next generation more than that. We owe it to ourselves to stand up for what is right.”

USA Hockey was not immediately available for comment at the time of publication.

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