US Men's Soccer Thinks Women's Team Deserves *More Than* 'Equal Pay,' Since They're Better
In 2019, the 28 members of the United States women's national soccer team celebrated International Women's Day by suing the United States Soccer Federation for gender discrimination — demanding equal pay, and more importantly, equal pay structures with their male counterparts. Last year, Judge R. Gary Klausner dismissed the case on the grounds that the women signed a contract agreeing to a differently structured payment agreement that "prioritized stability" and health care over per-game bonuses, as well as the fact that they actually ended up making more than the male players. However, had they been paid with the same structure as the male players, they would have earned a hell of a lot more.
Why? Because the US women's team is ranked first in the world and has won four World Cups, while the men's team is ranked 22nd and has won zero World Cups. In order to make as much as the male players do, the women have to win practically every one of their games.
The women are now appealing Judge Klausner's decision, and the men's team is standing by them, filing an amicus brief in support of their lawsuit on Friday.
Via Washington Post:
[T]he men's team called the ruling "flawed" and "oversimplified," saying that the court had wrongly ignored the fact that the women's pay relied on their performance, not just the number of games they played.
The men's team argued that, contrary to the judge's ruling, the women had been "pressured" to accept "an unfair and unequal" collective bargaining agreement.
When the women's agreement was negotiated, the brief claims, the men were "stunned" that US Soccer had not agreed to offer them equal pay, refusing to even meet the terms of the contract the men had negotiated six years earlier.
"The women deserved better from the Federation — and a lot more money," the men's team lawyers wrote in the brief.
US Women's soccer is a significantly bigger deal than men's soccer, probably because of all the winning they do. Players like Megan Rapinoe have become legitimate celebrities.
The fact that the women's team "agreed to" the terms set out in the contract does not justify unequal pay. The players are essentially over a barrel as their only actual option is to take that contract or straight up move to another country, where they probably won't make any more money anyway. Because FIFA also pays female players lower bonuses than male players.
US Soccer will likely not file a response until September, but let's all hope that they don't try to go with the strategy they initially tried in 2020, in which they argued that the women's team was paid less because they required "less skill."
"The overall soccer-playing ability required to compete at the senior men's national team level is materially influenced by the level of certain physical attributes, such as speed and strength, required for the job," the court documents read. The Federation later walked this shit right back after significant outcry and an on-field protest by the players, releasing a statement reading "USSF no longer disputes that the jobs of the WNT and MNT players require equal skill, effort, and responsibility — and therefore has necessarily conceded that they perform equal work."
If they perform equal work (and in this particular case, better work), and the USSF wants to argue that the contract for the men's team is not more fair than the contract for the women's team, then they should be perfectly happy to give both teams the same deal and to give the women's team some significant back pay. They should also be happy to fix some of the other gender discrimination issues highlighted in the initial complaint, such as coaching and training, travel accommodations, and health care.
President Joe Biden, as well as many Democrats in the Senate and House, have also come out in support of Rapinoe and the women's team, and have threatened to take away funding for the 2026 Men's World Cup — much of which is slated to be played in the US — if the Federation won't pay women fairly.
So they should probably get on that.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse