The U.S. women’s soccer team, winner of four Olympic gold medals, three World Cup championships, and ranked No. 1 in this year’s World Cup match that began June 7 in France, is suing U.S. Soccer for gender discrimination.
The class action suit declares that, compared to the men’s team—which has never won a World Cup or an Olympic medal of any color—the women’s team receives inferior wages, endures poor working conditions, and suffers pitiful investment in their game by U.S. Soccer. The March lawsuit claims “ongoing, institutionalized gender discrimination” that starts with pay, but extends to training, travel, marketing and promotion, medical personnel and support staff. Such treatment isn’t fair to them, to former players, or to the women who will follow them, the suit says.
“I have to do everything I have to do on the field,” Megan Rapinoe, who helped the U.S. women to the 2012 Olympic gold medal and 2015 World Cup championship, says. “Then, I have to do everything else to prove to you that that’s enough. I have to somehow justify myself or convince you that what I just did was amazing. And I already just did it.”
Superstars Mia Hamm was 15 and Kristine Lilly, 16, when they made their national team debut in 1987. They received $10 per diem and thought that was great. Competing in hand-me-down uniforms from the U.S. men’s under-20 squad didn’t curb their enthusiasm.
That was then. The battle to narrow the wage gap with the men began with a threatened boycott of the 1996 Olympics to force U.S. Soccer to award the women bonuses for a gold or silver medal. The organization initially wanted to give the women a bonus only if they won gold, while rewarding the men’s team with bonuses for each tournament victory.
Here’s how pitiful the winning women’s soccer team is compensated. Men earned $55,000 simply for making the roster of the 2014 U.S. World Cup team. The team was then given a $5.375 million performance bonus for losing in round 16 of that 2014 World Cup. Women earned $15,000 for making the roster of the 2015 U.S. World Cup team. The team was awarded $1.725 million for winning the 2015 World Cup. In rough numbers, women soccer players on the national team earn 38 percent of the men’s income.
And don’t tell me that’s because they’re not head of household.
In a heartwarming display of generosity, the maker of Luna nutrition bars said it will cover the shortfall and pay the 23 women who made the squad $31,250 each — the difference between U.S. Soccer’s roster bonuses for men and women.
By suing for gender discrimination, the women’s soccer team follows the example set by tennis sensations Billie Jean King and Venus Williams. Williams convinced Wimbledon to pay its male and female champions the same in 2007. Australia’s women’s soccer team and 200 female hockey players are following in line. The hockey players announced May 2 that they would boycott all North American league play until teams provide sustainable wages.
“They gave us hope that we can do this, too,” said Kendall Coyne Schofield, a leader in the women’s hockey team’s 2017 faceoff with USA Hockey. After threatening to boycott the 2017 world championship unless salaries and support improved, the women won concessions, the world title, and Olympic gold in the 2018 Winter Games.
It’s time to reward the winners, not the losers.