Five members of the U.S. Women’s National Team filed a wage discrimination complaint against the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) on Wednesday, citing figures from the USSF’s 2015 financial report to argue that players on the women’s national team earned nearly four times less than their male counterparts despite the fact that the women’s team generated nearly $20 million more in revenue last season.
“There are no legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for this gross disparity of wages, nor can it be explained away by any bona fide seniority, merit or incentive system or any factor other than sex,” the complaint said.
Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, and Becky Sauerbrunn filed the complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of the entire team, and are represented by lawyer Jeffrey Kessler, who has also represented Tom Brady in court over Deflategate.
“This is the strongest case of discrimination against women athletes in violation of law that I have ever seen,” Kessler said in a statement.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” Solo added. “We are the best in the world, have three World Cup championships, four Olympic championships and the USMNT get paid more to just show up than we get paid to win major championships.”
Although women’s players earn salaries up to as much as $72,000 a year, they still earn less than the men as a result of the two teams’ different bonus structures. A member of the men’s national team earns $5,000 for a loss in a friendly match and as much as $17,625 for a win; a women’s player, meanwhile, receives $1,350 for a friendly only if the U.S. wins. If the team losses or ties, the women’s players receive no bonuses.
“While we have not seen this complaint and can’t comment on the specifics of it,” U.S. Soccer said in a statement, “we are disappointed about this action. 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.”
As Deadspin helpfully explains, a central issue in this suit is whether the USSF and the women’s team have a legitimate collective bargaining agreement in place, as the last official CBA between the two parties expired in 2012. In 2013, both sides signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU), which the women want to abolish.
In January, the Women’s National Team Players Association filed a proposal for a new CBA on the grounds of equal pay, which caused the USSF to sue in order to confirm the status quo. That case has yet to be decided, and now the two sides are going to court yet again.
From Kessler’s statement:
“In early January, the Women’s National Team Players Association submitted a reasonable proposal for a new CBA that had equal pay for equal work as its guiding principle,” Kessler said in the statement. “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.”
On the “Today” show Wednesday, Morgan said the suit is about more than just equal pay.
“We want to play in top-notch, grass-only facilities like the U.S. men’s national team,” Morgan said, via ESPN. “We want to have equitable and comfortable travel accommodations and we simply want equal treatment.”
In December, a USWNT friendly in Hawaii was canceled after Rapinoe tore her ACL training on an artificial turf surface, which was also set to host the friendly the next day.
“Every single day we sacrifice just as much as the men. We work just as much,” Morgan told the “Today” show. “We endure just as much physically and emotionally. Our fans really do appreciate us every day for that. We saw that with the high of last summer. We’re really asking, and demanding now, that our federation, and our employer really, step up and appreciate us as well.”
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