The U.S. Women’s National Team is stepping up their fight to end the perception of gender discrimination in American soccer. The team has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation in a district court in Los Angeles
All 28 current members of the USWNT are included in the class lawsuit and they are seeking class action status to include anyone who’s been called into the team since February 4, 2015. The suit primarily calls for the team to be paid on the same level as their male counterparts. They are requesting back pay, damages, and other relief that, according to the New York Times, could total millions of dollars.
“Despite the fact that these female and male players are called upon to perform the same job responsibilities on their teams and participate in international competitions for their single common employer, the USSF, the female players have been consistently paid less money than their male counterparts,” the lawsuit said. “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.”
“Each of us is extremely proud to wear the United States jersey, and we also take seriously the responsibility that comes with that. 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,” USWNT forward Alex Morgan said in a statement.
Their issues go deeper than just equal pay, however. The team also claims that gender based discrimination against the team affects the quality of coaching, training, medical treatment, travel, and where and how often the team plays.
This isn’t the first legal action the USWNT has taken against their employers. The team filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2016 calling for equal pay with the men’s team. That filing has more or less been ignored by the federation, as well as the EEOC, leading to Friday’s lawsuit.
There are several obstacles standing in the team’s way, even after filing this lawsuit. One issue will be the issue of FIFA determined bonuses for World Cup participation. Soccer’s global governing body doles out a bonus pool of about $400 million to the 32 men’s team participating in the World Cup and only $30 million to the 24 teams in the women’s tournament. This means the World Champion USWNT receives far less money than the team that finishes last in the men’s World Cup.
However, the filing notes that in 2015, when the USWNT won the Women’s World Cup, it generated $20 million more in revenue than the men’s team.
There is also the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the U.S. Women’s National Team Players Association and U.S. Soccer, which settles issues like salary and other working conditions. That agreement went into place in 2017 and runs through 2021.
Still, the players remain steadfast in their fight for equal pay, and they are now taking their battle to court.