- The US Women’s National Team lost its equal pay lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation.
- A federal judge granted in part US Soccer’s motion for a summary judgment by throwing out the USWNT’s claims of unfair treatment on the basis of compensation.
- The structure of the USWNT’s collective bargaining agreement prioritises base salary over potential bonuses, whereas the USMNT’s CBA provides less guaranteed pay but a higher ceiling in the event that the team qualifies for tournaments and performs well.
- Since the USWNT “rejected an offer to be paid under the same pay-to-play structure” as the USMNT, the judge deemed the players’ claims that their CBA was inferior a false equivalence.
- The judge will still hear the USWNT’s claims of unequal travel accommodations and medical support services in a trial set for June 16 in Los Angeles.
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The US women’s national team’s fight for equal pay has suffered a huge blow.
In a shocking decision announced Friday evening, the judge presiding over the team’s highly-publicized lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation dismissed the players’ claims of unequal pay – and the $US66 million in damages they sought along with it.
US District Judge R. Gary Klausner granted in part US Soccer’s motion for a summary judgment, arguing that the women’s claims that the men’s national team’s greater earning potential was a breach of the Equal Pay Act were unfounded.
The USWNT’s unequal compensation claim was rooted in the fact that the men’s team’s players are eligible to make far more money than the women’s team’s players ever could. The team’s lawyers argued that the $US66 million in damages the players asked for is commensurate with the amount they would have earned had they been given the rate “set forth in the USMNT collective bargaining agreement.” Essentially, the women argued that if the men had achieved the exact level of success the women have, the men would have earned an additional $US66 million compared to what they actually earned.
But whether or not it’s unfair – or a violation of the law – is a different question. One Klausner determined due to the varying structures of the USWNT’s and USMNT’s CBA.
The baseline difference between the national teams’ CBAs is that the USWNT players’ pay is much more concentrated in fixed salaries – $US100,000 per player – and provides more guaranteed contracts in total. The men’s team’s compensation is much more heavily based on incentives.
For that reason, the men are eligible for larger bonuses. Since the USMNT is also eligible to play more games than the women do, their total earnings potential far exceeds that of the USWNT. In practice, the men have neither qualified for as many tournaments nor won nearly as many games as the women have, so the USWNT has actually outearned the USMNT in recent years.
And while the US Soccer Federation used the women’s greater total earnings as one argument to justify the dismissal of their claim, Klausner was further persuaded by the fact that the men and women negotiate their CBAs independently, and thus both parties independently agreed to the compensation structures they currently have.
“The history of negotiations between the parties demonstrates that the WNT rejected an offer to be paid under the same pay-to-play structure as the MNT, and the WNT was willing to forgo higher bonuses for benefits, such as greater base compensation and the guarantee of a higher number of contracted players,” Klausner wrote in his 32-page decision, per the AP.
“Accordingly, plaintiffs cannot now retroactively deem their CBA worse than the MNT CBA by reference to what they would have made had they been paid under the MNT’s pay-to-play terms structure when they themselves rejected such a structure,” he added.
The decision comes as a shock, especially after US Soccer faced intense public scrutiny for its previous defence that unequal pay for the USWNT is fair because “men are bigger, stronger, faster.” The argument, which the federation has since rescinded, eventually forced the ouster of former USSF President Carlos Cordeiro.
But according to former Sports Illustrated soccer writer Grant Wahl, even those most familiar with the case were not expecting to see a summary judgment reached on either side. Most anticipated that the entire case would make its way to trial or get settled before the specified court date.
Another, smaller aspect of the USWNT’s complaint is still in play despite the national team’s huge setback Friday evening. In addition to their chief grievance of unequal pay, the women also claimed to have received inferior travel accommodations and medical support services compared to their male counterparts. Klausner will still hear arguments on the topic in a trial set for June 16 in Los Angeles.
- Read more:
- US Soccer officially concedes its argument that women’s national team is inferior in skill to the men’s team in its equal pay lawsuit filings
- US Soccer Federation President Carlos Cordeiro resigned over USWNT equal pay lawsuit backlash – but he’s just a symptom of a larger problem
- US Women’s Soccer players are selling shirts that look like their warm-ups turned inside-out to honour their protest of unequal pay
- US Soccer wrote an open letter critical of the USWNT’s equal pay lawsuit on the eve of International Women’s Day, and the team was not happy about it
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