Don’t be fooled.
A federal judge’s decision to throw out the unequal pay claim by players on the U.S. women’s national soccer team doesn’t absolve the United States Soccer Federation of its discriminatory practices.
The 32-page decision from U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner likely thwarted the team’s attempt to receive all of the nearly $66 million in damages from the lawsuit. But it did highlight some troubling discrepancies in the treatment of these women.
What will probably get lost in the judge’s ruling is the USSF’s “gross disparity” in money spent on accommodations for the U.S. men’s team and money spent on the much more successful women’s team.
In his decision, Klausner rejected the USSF’s argument that the men’s team had a competitive need for charter flights that were different from the women’s team. The USSF argued that the men have more need for charter flights than the women in order to arrive more rested for their qualifiers.
“This rationale does not fully explain the gross disparity on money spent on airfare and hotels for the teams,” Klausner wrote.
He also allowed separate claims of discriminatory travel accommodations to go to trials such as money spent on hotels and commercial flights. In addition, Klausner let claims on support services such as medical and training staff go to trial as well.
It should be alarming that a women’s team which has won four World Cup titles in its history — including the last two — has been subjected to poorer treatment than their male counterparts, who have won zero championships and failed to even qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The optics of the situation have been so severe that even former USSF President Carlos Cordeiro voiced the need for change in an 2018 interview with ESPN as the federation battled a pending Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charge at the time.
Cordeiro stated that despite the current collective bargaining agreement, measures should be taken to make sure that the women’s team has access to equal pay and equal resources.
“I’m a strong supporter of greater equality, diversity, and inclusion throughout US Soccer, and we clearly need to work toward equal pay for the national teams,” Cordeiro told ESPN. “I believe that where existing agreements are unfair, adjustments should be made immediately,” he said.
“We don’t need to wait for CBA negotiations to make these changes, we can start now. It’s the right thing to do.”
“Our women’s teams should be respected and valued as much as our men’s teams, but our female players have not been treated equally,” said Cordeiro.
Cordeiro announced his resignation as USSF president in March. However, his comments will have a lasting impact on the federation for years to come.
It’s hard to ignore admissions of inequality coming from the head of the organization.
The point here is simple.
While the judge’s ruling may not have been in favor of the unequal pay claim from the women’s team, it’s impossible to overlook the inequality that persists in the USSF towards these women.
They have continuously proven themselves as world-class athletes. The USSF still continues to disrespect them by not providing fair agreements or equal accommodations.
Klausner’s decision may have hindered true equality for these women, for now, but it won’t be long before the USSF will be held accountable.