By Nathalie Voit
The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) and the U.S. Soccer Federation have settled their class-action equal pay lawsuit for $24 million, both parties announced in a joint statement on Feb. 22.
“We are pleased to announce that, contingent on the negotiation of a new collective bargaining agreement, we will have resolved our longstanding dispute over equal pay and proudly stand together in a shared commitment to advancing equality in soccer,” USWNT and U.S. Soccer said.
The lawsuit, first filed in March 2019 by 28 USWNT members, cited systemic gender discrimination by U.S. Soccer against the U.S. women’s team concerning their compensation and working conditions. The lawsuit dates back to a federal equal-pay compliant initially introduced in 2016 by now-retired soccer stars Hope Solo and Carli Lloyd, in addition to Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Alex Morgan, according to NPR.
The gender discrimination suit enumerated U.S. women’s members’ grievances against its own federation, including what they describe as unequal treatment in their salary, medical care, travel arrangements, and overall workload, NBC said.
“We continue to be told we should be grateful just to have the opportunity to play professional soccer, and to get paid for doing it,” former player Hope Solo told the Today show in 2016, according to NPR. “In this day and age, it’s about equality. It’s about equal rights, it’s about equal pay.”
The original EEOC filing states that while the women and the men’s soccer teams are required to participate in a minimum of 20 “friendly” games per year, women players receive a bonus of $1,350 if they win a “friendly.” In contrast, the men are guaranteed $5,000 no matter what–with the ability to make up to $17,625 per game.
The complaint also claims that the best female players on the team would still make $1,000 less per year than a male player who lost all of his 20 games, NPR said.
In addition to bringing up the longstanding issue of unequal pay in the sport, the complaint also brought up such matters like women having to play games on artificial turf while men can play on real grass, women flying in coach class when men can mostly fly on business, and women not being paid per point earned in the World Cup group stage unlike men who are compensated that way, Sports Illustrated said.
U.S. Soccer will distribute a lump sum of $22 million to the plaintiffs, in addition to an extra $2 million towards a USWNT post-career fund. The suit said that each player could qualify for up to $50,000 from the fund.
“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,” Tuesday’s statement read.