By Ken Reed
On March 8th, the women’s national soccer team filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against U.S. Soccer. They are fighting for equal treatment in pay and working conditions relative to the men’s national soccer team. The suit was filed three months before they play the World Cup in France.
The 28 members of the women’s national team state in their suit that:
“the net profit for the WNT (women’s national team) outstripped net profit for the MNT (men’s national team) because the female players on the WNT were more successful in competition than the male players on the MNT — while being paid substantially less.”
The women have been vastly more successful on the field than the men, having won three World Cup titles and four Olympic gold medals. The men have zero on both counts. Just as importantly, for the purposes of this lawsuit, the women have brought in substantially more revenue than the men. In 2016, according to the lawsuit, US Soccer budgeted for a combined net loss for both teams of $429,929, but largely due to the on-field and economic success of the women’s team, US Soccer revised its projections to a $17.7 million profit.
The lawsuit reaches beyond pay equity issues to include differences in playing conditions, along with travel disparities between the men’s and women’s national teams. In 2017, two percent of MNT games were played on artificial turf. Meanwhile, 21 percent of WNT games were on artificial turf. (Playing sports on artificial surfaces results in more injuries than what occurs when playing on natural grass surfaces.) In addition, while traveling, the MNT flew charter flights 17 times while the women’s team never flew a charter flight.
There have been some recent breakthroughs for the women’s team. In late March, Luna Bar, a subsidiary of Clif Bar, announced a donation of $718,750 to the women’s team so WNT players would no longer be making $31,250 less than their male counterparts. Adidas also announced it will give women the same bonus as men for winning the World Cup.
While those are great moves by Luna Bar and Adidas, they are short-term fixes to the problem. The WNT players hope their discrimination lawsuit leads to long-term equality in a variety of areas, not just pay.
“We might not see equal pay among athletes within our generation,” Alex Morgan, a striker for the team told Reuters, “but the hope is that the future generations will.”
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of FansPrint
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League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
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