Five prominent members of the U.S. Women’s National Team have filed a wage discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging that governing body U.S. Soccer has illegally and unfairly paid women’s players less than their counterparts on the USMNT, despite the women’s team being more successful and, at the moment, more profitable.
The complaint, which was filed by Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Alex Morgan, alleges that,
“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.”
According to the complaint, USWNT players currently take home four times less than their male counterparts. Here’s how that manifests in bonuses, appearance fees, even per diems:
This is not so simple a matter as the men being paid more because they earn more for U.S. Soccer. The filing includes the minutes from the USSF’s annual general meeting held earlier this year, in which the budget going forward was set. U.S. Soccer expects USWNT international games to bring in more revenue than the USMNT games this year—and significantly more in 2017.
(World Cup revenues don’t factor in here, as those are set by FIFA.)
This filing should be read in the context of the ugly, drawn-out labor war between the women’s team and the USSF, which has manifested itself in battles over games held in stadiums with artificial turf, which the players deem dangerous. A December friendly in Hawaii was canceled, a day after Rapinoe tore her ACL training on the field.
At issue is whether the players and U.S. Soccer have a valid collective bargaining agreement. The last CBA expired in 2012, and the sides signed a memorandum of understanding in 2013. The USWNT wants to dissolve that MOU, while U.S. Soccer maintains it constitutes a binding contract that runs through the end of 2016. U.S. Soccer preemptively filed suit earlier this year, seeking a federal court to confirm the status quo; the USWNT is fighting it. That case remains pending.
The demand is simple: the women want equal pay, and if they won’t get it in a CBA (something USSF has indicated is not on the table, according to the players’ lawyer Jeffrey Kessler), they’ll seek redress under their civil rights.
And the women have one more bullet in the chamber if it comes to it. Kessler would not comment on the possibility of a work stoppage ahead of this summer’s Olympics. Hope Solo, in a call with reporters this morning, would not rule it out.
“We reserve the right to make a decision based upon what we think is fit at the time. Right now all options are open to us. We hope we don’t have to go down that road, but we are prepared to take any action if our attorneys and teams see it fit.”