The Dugout: Women’s Soccer Fights for Equity Pay

By Samantha Small

Sam headshot Sam is a senior majoring in communications

The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT), which has been serially successful—far more so than its male counterpart—recently filed a lawsuit demanding pay parity from U.S. soccer’s governing body. Five players from the team filed the lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation: Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn.

The players filed the report on behalf of their entire team, which sometimes earns as little as between a half and a quarter of the U.S. men’s team players.

According to ESPN, the action was filed by the law firm of Winston & Strawn and its co-chairman Jeffrey Kessler. Earlier in the year, Kessler told ESPN the team submitted a reasonable proposal for a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that had equal pay for equal work as its guiding principle.

“U.S. Soccer responded by suing the players in an effort to keep in place the discriminatory and unfair treatment they have endured for years,” Kessler said to ESPN.

In response to the recent lawsuit filed at the end of March, U.S. Soccer told NBC’s TODAY that it was disappointed in the action. U.S. Soccer officials even seemed offended by the women’s attempts to fight for equality, saying they have been a world leader in women’s soccer and have been committed to improving the women’s game in the U.S. over the past 30 years.

Now, it seems not only is U.S. Soccer reluctant to affect change, many people are disapproving of the recent lawsuit and say they are tired of the women’s equal rights movements surfacing around the country. Unfortunately for these people, there is absolutely no basis for the argument that these women do not deserve the same (if not higher) salaries than the men.

Thus far, the women’s team collected three World Cups (it is the current holder) and four Olympic gold medals. How many times did the men’s team even make it to the final match in these tournaments? Once. Over a century ago. The men’s team boasts a solitary silver medal for a loss to Canada in the 1904 St. Louis summer games. The men’s next almost-but-not-quite victory occurred in 1930, when the team made it to the semifinal match in the first FIFA World Cup, but lost 6-1 to Argentina. This is still the team’s highest World Cup finish to date. For those of you hoping the men’s team is gaining momentum, you’ll be sad to realize the U-23 men failed to qualify for the Olympic Games for the second consecutive time.

Clearly, the USWNT’s record is something to be proud of. But, it seems wins and success don’t equal dollars in this world (at least for women). However, not only are the women more successful than the men, they also generate more revenue for U.S. Soccer.

“It’s been noted… that the women’s team itself has generated more money by far—by 20 million dollars in 2015 than the men’s team did,” sportscaster, journalist and author John Bacon told CNN. Kessler said, according to U.S. soccer’s numbers, last year the women’s team earned 16 million dollars for U.S. Soccer, and the men caused a two million dollar loss.

So, they win more often, they produce more revenue, but they still get paid less than half what the men are paid? Ludicrous.

The women endured inequity for years while garnering success after success. Solo, Lloyd, Morgan and Sauerbrunn appeared on NBC’s TODAY show on Thursday, March 31 and said not much has changed during their time on the team. Solo, who has been on the team for a decade and a half, went through numerous CBA negotiations that failed to come to fruition.

“We continue to be told we should be grateful just to have the opportunity to play professional soccer, to get paid for doing it,” Solo said while on the show.

So, U.S. Soccer is willing to reward the men’s minimal success with sizable paychecks, but it expects the women to sit contently with lower wages because they at least have the opportunity to play soccer professionally? Something doesn’t add up here.

Despite facing these challenges, the women said they believe the time is right to fight for what they deserve and to set the stage for all women soccer players.

Lloyd, Morgan, Solo, Rapinoe and Sauerbrunn, among their other teammates, are role models to young athletes around the world. The team’s domination of the 2015 World Cup only further proved its excellence.

Even current men’s soccer stars Tim Howard and Landon Donovan are supporting the women’s rights to equal pay. So, why do some in the general public see room for argument? The USWNT is symbol of American success. It embodies the American dream. It alone garners respect from other nations toward American soccer. When will the women’s success be enough for them to earn what they deserve?