The USWNT are three-time World Champions and the most successful in women’s international soccer, earning four women’s Olympic gold medals, eight CONCACAF Gold Cups, and ten Algarve Cups. Their current FIFA ranking is first. Lately, the team has been struggling.
England won this year’s SheBelieves Cup, which is a tournament founded on women’s inspiration and empowerment on and off the field. Even so, the women have qualified for the 2019 Women’s World Cup and go to defend their title in France this summer. They’re expected to continue to win and are a favorite amongst fans, especially since the men didn’t qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Despite all the accomplishments and high regards, these women are not exempt from discrimination in what is undeniably a patriarchal industry.
I write to you as one of few female sports enthusiasts in the industry. My niche into soccer reporting is that I am a woman and multiracial at that. Only recently, did women commentate for the 2018 World Cup despite more women now than ever covering the major sporting event. So, this is not a new issue as the battle for equal rights and feminism ensues. We continue to see that women are resilient and “anything a man can do WE can do better.”
The U.S. Women’s National Team are leading the way per the usual. News broke of this class action lawsuit on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2019 and was filed in federal court. A complaint was filed in 2016 over wage discrimination involving some of the same players with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In February of this year, the USWNT were issued letters of right to sue and did so after trying to resolve it through EEOC. The 28 USWNT players accuse U.S. Soccer of years of what has been labeled as “institutionalized gender discrimination.” The lawsuit also states that TITLE VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has been violated. It lists the following players many of whom are stars, but could extend to include dozens of former members of the team:
Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn, Carli Lloyd, Morgan Brian, Jane Campbell, Danielle Colaprico, Abby Dahlkemper, Tierna Davidson, Crystal Dunn, Julie Ertz, Adrianna Franch, Ashlyn Harris, Tobin Heath, Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle, Allie Long, Merritt Mathias, Jessica McDonald, Samantha Mewis, Alyssa Naeher, Kelley O’Hara, Christen Press, Mallory Pugh, Casey Short, Emily Sonnett, Andi Sullivan, and McCall Zerboni.
To say the least, there is pay disparity in U.S. Soccer between the men and women. Despite being the most marketable team, the women are paid 38% less. The men’s team has been disappointing, have performed inconsistently, and have never won a World Cup title. But, this isn’t about the play on the field. The bigger issue is equality in women’s sports and ultimately in the workplace and society. Statistically and globally, women are paid less than men.
The USWNT is taking a stand for equal treatment as the women play more games than their male counterparts. Prior to this, the men flew on chartered flights and the women were denied them, and other inequities include disparate meal money and hotel accommodations.
Players have earned respect and support using their profiles and followings, and they’re already winning over public opinion. Many have come out on social media to support the USWNT, including Adidas Executive Board Member and head of Global Brands, Eric Liedtke, released a post on adidas football official Instagram “equal pay for equal play” and stating:
View this post on Instagram
“We believe in inspiring and enabling the next generation of female athletes, creators and leaders through breaking barriers.
Today we are announcing that all adidas athletes on the winning 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup team will receive the same performance payout as their male peers.”
Prior to this, FIFA doubled the prize money of this summer Women’s World Cup after the USWNT complaints drew attention.
It’s important that this story remain at surface level. It’s been no secret that women’s sports, specifically in the soccer world, have been treated unfairly for decades. The players demand a permanent injunction to prevent USSF from any further alleged discrimination.
The women will continue to play while their lawyers handle the case. The women are seeking compensation for back pay, front pay, the financial value of lost job benefits, punitive damages reflecting just punishment of U.S. Soccer and attorney’s fees. There is not a total amount specified.
All eyes will be on U.S. Soccer as this plays out. It’s definitely their employer and governing body in America and not the fans who have been perpetuating the cycle of inequality. So, of course, this isn’t going to be an easy battle. But, these women are warriors on and off the pitch.