U.S. Women’s National Team players had filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint over inequality in pay and treatment.
U.S. women soccer stars will now be paid the same as the men's team in a landmark victory. Players including Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan reached a $24 million settlement with the U.S. Soccer Federation after suing the body over unequal pay with men’s team players. "For us, this is just a huge win in ensuring that we not only right the wrongs of the past, but set the next generation up for something we only dreamed of,” said Rapinoe. The settlement was announced on Tuesday and confirmed that in the future, the U.S. soccer body will pay men and women at an equal rate in all friendlies and tournaments, including the World Cup. The decision comes after a group of five U.S. Women’s National Team players filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint over inequality in pay and treatment in 2016, reported NBC News.
"We are really in the midst of an incredible turning point in women’s sport," said Rapinoe. "If you’re not paying attention to this right now and what’s happening in women’s sport, you’re sleeping on the whole thing.” The disparity in pay is humongous with FIFA awarding $400 million in prize money for the 32 teams at the 2018 men’s World Cup while awarding just $30 million for the 24 teams at the 2019 women’s World Cup. Similarly, the men's world champions received $38 million as prize money in 2018 while the U.S. women's soccer team was awarded a paltry $4 million. “U.S. Soccer has agreed to equalize the prize money moving forward, obviously we call on FIFA to truly equalize that for men's and women’s tournaments," said Alex Morgan, a star player. "That’s really what we set out to do. Equalize on all fronts. It’s a proud moment for all of us.”
Players will receive millions of dollars as part of the $24 million settlement in back pay owed to them. Morgan, Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn, Hope Solo and Carli Lloyd are the players who filed the EEOC complaint. Solo and Lloyd have since retired. This was followed by 28 members of the USWNT suing the body in March 2019 over years of ongoing institutionalized gender discrimination against the players in their compensation and working conditions.
The World Cup in 2019 amplified the players' cause as crowds in the stadium chanted "Equal Pay." The U.S. women's team also went on to win the World Cup in Paris. The U.S. women's team is the most successful national women's team in soccer, having won four FIFA Women’s World Cup titles since its founding in 1991. The U.S. men's team, on the other hand, has never won the World Cup and its highest finish came in 1920, at the inaugural World Cup when it finished third.
As per the agreement, the U.S. soccer body will pay $22 million to the players and cough up an additional $2 million into an account to benefit USWNT players in their post-career goals and charitable efforts related to women’s and girls’ soccer. The players and U.S. Soccer released a joint statement after settling the lawsuit: “Getting to this day has not been easy. The U.S. Women’s National Team players have achieved unprecedented success while working to achieve equal pay for themselves and future athletes. Today, we recognize the legacy of the past USWNT leaders who helped to make this day possible, as well as all of the women and girls who will follow.”
Initially, the U.S. Soccer Federation's response to the lawsuit was riddled with sexism. As we reported, the U.S. Soccer Federation argued that "the job of a [men's national team player] carries more responsibility within US Soccer than the job of a [women's national team] player." A spokesperson for the women's team called out the soccer body, "This ridiculous ‘argument’ belongs in the Paleolithic Era. It sounds as if it has been made by a caveman. Literally, everyone in the world understands that an argument that male players ‘have more responsibility' is just plain simple sexism and illustrates the very gender discrimination that caused us to file this lawsuit, to begin with."