As you may be aware, the United States Women's Soccer Team (USWNT) recently won their second straight World Cup and fourth since 1991. The 2-0 victory over the Netherlands was a brilliant performance from a frontrunner who was expected to win, and deliver they did. This year's team captain, Megan Rapinoe, has unabashedly used her platform to take a strong stance promoting civil rights and has received push back from critics for fighting for equal rights for all. A prime example came from President Trump when he responded to her rejection of his invite to visit the White House.
Equal pay suit against U.S. Soccer
More broadly, one of the team's goals after winning the championship has been highlighting its ongoing equal pay lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation (USSF). The heart of the team's lawsuit is the fact that male soccer players earn more pay than the women receive for performing substantially similar work. For example, if the women and men receive an annual salary of about $100,000 and additional bonuses based on their performance and record. Under that structure, the women's team could hypothetically earn 38% of what the men's team players earn if they have the same record under their own separate pay structure. According to CNBC, the women also earned slightly more revenue for their matches compared to the men ($50.8 for the women versus $49.9 million for the men).
The class-action lawsuit filed on International Women's Day of 2018 (March 8) with 28 members of the team listed as plaintiffs (the class is any USWNT member since 2015). The filing in part reads:
"At this moment of tremendous pride for America, the sad equation remains all too clear, and Americans won't stand for it anymore. These athletes generate more revenue and garner higher TV ratings but get paid less simply because they are women," said Molly Levinson, spokeswoman for the USWNT players in their equal pay lawsuit.
The suit highlights other ways the women's team has received less favorable treatment compared to the men's team are:
- More difficult conditions for team travel, often using buses instead of charter jets like the U.S. Men's team
- Smaller training staff and lesser training facilities than the men
- Unequal marketing promotion of the games
Thus far, the two sides tentatively agreed to mediation after the tournament. However, the team's championship win and status as major sports figures worthy of a ticker tape parade in New York City will undoubtedly strengthen the USWNT's case when the two sides sit down. The players have also continued their outspoken advocacy for equal pay during their post-tournament victory lap in the media. They are seeking back pay, front pay, interest, damages, attorneys' fees, and a permanent injunction preventing these discriminatory practices.
FIFA likely the next target
The USSF case focuses on the pay structure for the USWNT here at home. But the next likely target could be FIFA, which is the World Cup's governing body. The men's tournament had a $400 million payout in 2018 (the winning team received $38 million) with pay going up to $440 million in 2022. The 2019 women's tournament paid $30 million with the winning U.S. team receiving $4 million, or about 10% of what the men received. The women's 2023 tournament prize money is currently listed to double to $60 million, but the pay gap will continue to widen unless there is a change.
Other suits could follow
The #MeToo movement that started a few years back has destroyed or tainted the careers of many major figures in entertainment and media, finance and business as well as other areas. It has become a social movement that changed what passes as acceptable behavior in the workplace. Employers who do not have clear policies of equal pay for the same work will likely see a surge in lawsuits based on the USWNT's success and activism. It was no coincidence that fans watching the game on television could hear the soccer stadium fans chanting "Equal Pay" as the team closed in on its victory.
AMG stands with the USWNT and its fight for equal compensation, and we hope to see these brave warriors prevail!