U.S. Women's Soccer Team files gender discrimination lawsuit alleging unfair pay: 'We believe it is our duty'
After a years-long battle for equal pay, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNST) has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) alleging “institutionalized gender discrimination.” The bold move by the female athletes against their employer comes three months before the Women’s World Cup — a competition they are favored to win.
“Each of us is extremely proud to wear the United States jersey, and we also take seriously the responsibility that comes with that,” forward Alex Morgan said in a statement obtained by ESPNW. “We believe that fighting for gender equality in sports is a part of that responsibility. As players, we deserved to be paid equally for our work, regardless of our gender.”
The class-action lawsuit was filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Calif., under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. It names all 28 members of the USWNST as plaintiffs and allows any player since February 2015 to join the case. The suit states that “the female players have been consistently paid less money than their male counterparts” despite having the same responsibilities as USSF’s male players.
“This is true even though their performance has been superior to that of the male players — with the female players, in contrast to male players, becoming world champions,” the lawsuit adds.
The female athletes seek to obtain equitable pay and treatment for female players in addition to damages, including back pay. The arguments from the current litigation are similar to wage discrimination complaints filed by five female players —including stars Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan — to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2015.
The players filed their complaint shortly after the USWNST reigned triumphant over Japan in a record-shattering World Cup championship in 2015, beating their opponents 5 to 2. National debates ensued shortly after their victory when reports revealed that the victorious women’s team earned a total of $2 million while their male counterparts were paid $8 million (and they lost in round 16).
While the USSF has made no comment on the current lawsuit filed against them, in the past, the soccer organization has cited that the women and men’s teams have negotiated separate collective bargaining agreements. While the men operate on a pay-to-play system, the women’s earnings are comprised of a base salary and a bonus for each game won. The USSF has also countered that the women have received comparable pay when considering the larger revenue stream generated by the men’s soccer teams. However, due to the increased success and profitability of the women’s soccer team in recent years, the female athletes say the discrepancy in their pay is unfair.
“We believe it is our duty to be the role models that we’ve set out to be and fight to what we know we legally deserve,” forward Christen Press told the Associated Press. “And hopefully in that way it inspires women everywhere.”
“At the heart of this whole issue, we believe that it’s the right thing. We believe that there has been discrimination against us,” midfielder Megan Rapinoe told ESPNW. “And while we have fought very hard and for a long time, whether that be through our CBA or through our players’ association, putting ourselves in the best possible position that we can to get the best deal that we can, we still feel that we don’t have what we’re trying to achieve, which is equality in the workplace.”
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