On March 31, 2016 Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn and Hope Solo filed an action with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of the entire United States Women’s National Team that accused the U.S. Soccer Federation of wage discrimination. In the lawsuit they claim that they are paid almost four times less than their male counterparts on the Men’s National Team despite their constant superb performance over the past few years, capped with a world cup championship this past summer. In a statement, Hope Solo said, “The numbers speak for themselves. We are the best in the world, have three World Cup Championships, four Olympic Championships, and the USMNT get paid more just to show up than we get paid to win major championships.”
And the numbers really do speak for themselves. In the EEOC filing, the women cite several statistics found in the federation’s 2015 financial report that highlight the disparity between men’s and women’s pay. If they win 20 friendlies, the minimum number they are required to play in a year, they would only earn $99,000 each, but for accomplishing the same feat men would earn $263,320, even making $100,000 if they lost all 20 games. Playing beyond this minimum requirement does not lead to any additional pay for women, while the men make between $5,000 and $17,625 for each game played beyond 20. Additionally, even though they won the Women’s World Cup the Women’s team only received $2 million whereas the men made $9 million for getting knocked out in the round of 16.
There are several arguments that have been used to justify the lower wages for the women’s team but two of the main arguments claimthat 1) they do not draw large viewership and 2) they fail to generate substantial revenue. But these arguments are nullified considering the fact that the women’s world cup final was the most watched soccer game in U.S. history and their run through the tournament generated almost $20 million more in revenue than the men’s team last year. Some assert that men do not want to see women play soccer but the head of business operations for Fox Sports said that the demographics for the post–World Cup broadcasts of NWSL games were a “healthy mix between male and female viewers.”
By all quantifiable metrics, the women’s team has more than outperformed the men’s team in virtually every category but still earn over four times less because of one thing; their gender. These women have suffered through a variety of obstacles that have only arisen because they are viewed as inferior in the world of soccer. Last summer they were forced to play on artificial turf for the world cup, a pitch that would cause any men’s team to boycott the game, and last December they arrived at the Honolulu Aloha Stadium to find the turf protruding with rocks and ripping at the seams. While the federation has upheld that it has been a large supporter of women’s soccer and has invested large sums into the NWSL, their support should not diminish the women’s team’s right to at minimum earn equal pay for equal work.
ESPN Staff. “U.S. women’s team files wage-discrimination action vs. U.S. Soccer.” ESPN.com. Last updated 1 April 2016. http://espn.go.com/espnw/sports/article/15102506/women-national-team-files-wage-discrimination-action-vs-us-soccer-federation (accessed on 1 April 2016).
Fox Sports Staff. “USWNT players suing U.S. Soccer for wage discrimination.” Foxsports.com. 31 April 2016. http://www.foxsports.com/soccer/story/uswnt-accuse-soccer-federation-of-wage-discrimination-033116 (accessed on 1 April 2016).
Mitchell, Elizabeth. “Soccer Wars: How US Soccer mistreats World Cup-winning Women’s National Team.” NYDailyNews.com. 30 March 2016. http://interactive.nydailynews.com/2016/03/how-us-soccer-mistreats-world-cup-winning-womens-national-team/ (accessed on 1 April 2016).