A federal judge dealt a significant blow to the U.S. Women’s national team’s fight for equality on Friday. While the U.S. women’s team’s claim of unequal working conditions can go forward, a federal judge rejected the player’s claims of pay inequality.
In March 2019, the USWNT filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation. The suit alleges the U.S. Soccer Federation’s has federally discriminatory payment practices, arguing that they pay women less than men “for substantially equal work and by denying them at least equal playing, training, and travel conditions; equal promotion of their games; equal support and development for their games; and other terms and conditions of employment equal to the MNT.”
In his decision on Friday, Judge R. Gary Klausner wrote that USWNT members did not prove wage discrimination under the Equal Pay Act because the women’s team played more games and made more money than the men’s team.
Furthermore, the women’s team also rejected a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) where they would have an identical pay structure to the men’s team in favor of a different CBA. This CBA guarantees players are compensated regardless of whether they play, while the men’s CBA does not.
“This approach—merely comparing what each team would have made under the other team’s CBA—is untenable in this case because it ignores the reality that the MNT and WNT bargained for different agreements which reflect different preferences, and that the WNT explicitly rejected the terms they now seek to retroactively impose on themselves,” Judge Klausner wrote.
However, that’s not the way the players see it. On CBS This Morning, Megan Rapinoe—team co-captain—said she was “shocked” and “disappointed” and contradicted the judge’s assertion that the women turned down the men’s deal.
“We asked to be under the men’s contract, and it was repeatedly refused to us—not only in the structure but in the total compensation,” Rapinoe said. “If we were under that contract, we would have earned at least three times higher.”
While claims by the players of unequal working conditions based on travel conditions—specifically charter flights and hotel accommodations, and support services like medical and training support—will still go to trial, the USWNT intends to appeal the ruling.
“We are shocked and disappointed with today’s decision, but we will not give up our hard work for equal pay,” Molly Levinson, a spokeswoman for the USWNT, said. “We are confident in our case and steadfast in our commitment to ensuring that girls and women who play this sport will not be valued as lesser just because of their gender. We have learned that there are tremendous obstacles to change; we know that it takes bravery and courage and perseverance to stand up to them. We will appeal and press on. Words cannot express our gratitude to all who support us.”
US Soccer released a statement saying it looks forward to “working with the Women’s National Team to chart a positive path forward to grow the game both here at home and around the world.”
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