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USWNT equal pay lawsuit dealt major blow after judge rules in favor of U.S. Soccer

Brad Smith ISI Photos

A federal judge in California ruled in favor of U.S. Soccer on most of the key points in the U.S. Women’s National Team’s ongoing wage discrimination lawsuit.

Judge R. Gary Klausner ruled in favor of U.S. Soccer, stating in his decision that the players “have not demonstrated a triable issue that WNT players are paid less than MNT players.”

In addition, Klausner ruled in favor of the Federation’s claims that USWNT players were paid more in total and on a per-game basis during the period in question.

Members of the USWNT filed a lawsuit in 2019 on two grounds, first claiming that U.S. Soccer violated the Equal Pay Act by paying the U.S. Women less than members of the U.S. Men’s National Team; and second, that the federation discriminated against them under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, specifically with regard to workplace conditions.

Klausner’s judgment centered around his determination that the USWNT was actually paid more than the USMNT on a per-game basis and in total from 2016 to 2019, according to financial information provided by U.S. Soccer.

Klausner also pointed to the different Collective Bargaining Agreement structures between the USWNT and USMNT as another reason to rule in favor of U.S. Soccer. The USWNT had the option to accept a structure similar to the current men’s team structure, but chose instead to secure guaranteed salaries for key players.

“Merely comparing what Women’s National Team players received under their own CBA with what they would have received under the Men’s National Team CBA discounts the value that the team placed on the guaranteed benefits they received under their agreement,” Klausner’s 32-page ruling said. “Which they opted for at the expense of higher performance-based bonuses.”

The lone issues left unsettled after Friday’s judgment involved USWNT discrimination in charter flights, hotel accommodations, and medical and training support. That trial is scheduled for mid-June.

“We are shocked and disappointed with today’s decision, but we will not give up our hard work for equal pay,” Molly Levinson, spokesperson for the USWNT, said on Friday. “We are confident in our case and steadfast in our commitment to ensuring that girls and women who play this sport will not be valued as lesser just because of their gender.

“We have learned that there are tremendous obstacles to change; we know that it takes bravery and courage and perseverance to stand up to them. We will appeal and press on. Words cannot express our gratitude to all who support us.”

Several USWNT players voiced their opinions of disagreement with the ruling on social media.

Friday’s decision doesn’t end the USWNT’s Equal Pay lawsuit, but it severely cripples it. U.S. Soccer and the USWNT can still negotiate a settlement, but Friday’s decision gives U.S. Soccer a clear advantage in negotiations.

Comments

  1. While I am a BIG supporter of the USWNT, The Judge brings up a valid legal point. The women are attempting to compare apples to oranges. HOWEVER, what really surprises me in the collective bargaining scenario here is the fact that the USMNT, who has not done very well in recent years, opted for a performance based compensation approach, whereas the USWNT, who have been doing all the winning, opted for a guaranteed salary posture, which would have initially appeared to be, and which actually turned out to be, to their detriment. Our USWNT has had the best competitive record of any countries National Team, Men or Women, during the last 5 years!!!!!! I think our Women’s team may want to consider changing their collective bargaining Agent!!!

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  2. Some great comments here.

    Will someone from USWNT side please provide a spreadsheet showing exactly how they should be paid any better than they currently are?

    Inevitably it will expose the Elephant in the Roon…..the ladies want the same FIFA WC bonuses the men would receive even when that money DOES NOT EXIST!!

    Also, let’s do a poll of every person (including Biden) who supports USWNT position..

    Question: Do you know exact details of USWNT request?

    Answer options: Yes or No

    Over under on “yes”……8%

    I

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  3. Why don’t they just argue for their own national governing body, and see how quickly it will go bankrupt? What next, you will blame fans for out turning out to sustain your league and salaries?

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  4. After reading about the substance of the lawsuit, I’m not surprised that most of the women’s claims were dismissed. You got what you collectively bargained for—security over performance based compensation.

    I think the lawsuit was largely driven by some of the team members who fashion themselves as social justice warriors. Their claims play great on Instagram and in advertisements, but when the rubber met the road, there simply was no cognizable claim of pay discrimination. The men and women bargained for two different contracts which resulted in two different pay structures.

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  5. For those of you watching the Last Dance, there are echoes in this ruling to Jerry Reinsdorf’s reaction when Scottie Pippen wanted to renegotiate his 7 year, $18mm deal (signed in 1991), which made him vastly underpaid by the mid-1990s: take a hike. You can’t accept lower comp in exchange for more security and then complain when you outperform and are undervalued during the contract. That’s what the women did with the CBA: traded security for upside. Perhaps they shouldn’t have, perhaps they should. I don’t know. But you can’t have it both ways.

    Here’s the difference though: the judge found that the women actually made more per game than the men, despite the guarantee. I don’t know whether that’s because the class period was unfavorable to the women—it ran from 2015 to 2019, so excluded the 2014 World Cup when the men advanced to the round of 16 and included the 2018 World Cup when they didn’t even qualify—or if that wouldn’t have made a difference at all. But I have serious questions as to why they brought the case if that is in fact true.

    Bottom line: accommodations for the men’s and women’s teams should be the same. Same facilities, same travel and lodging, same meal quality, etc. But if the women want a different pay structure from the men, and vice versa, they should be able to negotiate that. And then NEITHER men nor women should sue if it doesn’t work out the way they want.

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    • @Tinho

      “and included the 2018 World Cup when they didn’t even qualify”

      holy crap, i just realized that the men not making the 2018 world cup might have really hurt the women’s case. i was wondering the same thing you were: why would the women bring the case if even the total compensation numbers were higher for the women? but they may have just assumed (reasonably) that qualification for the world cup was a given, and therefore the men’s $$$ would be way higher.

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      • I know! But the lawsuit was originally filed in March 2019, so the WNT already knew the MNT hadn’t qualified when they sued.

  6. First, let’s stop equating being the Big Bad Wolf beating up on cupcakes in 80+% of all games as somehow equivalent to the situation in the worldwide men’s game…at all.
    ******
    Second, let’s take the men’s side out of the equation, period. I think the accommodations thing should be equal to each, but the men’s situation and the women’s situation exist in two entirely different bubbles. From club situations, to the CBA, to the “equivalence of actual competition.” On the men’s side, it’s very easy to lose your place in the national side. For the women, it’s literally written in stone that only a few newbies are allowed to be brought into any camp, and most get buried without any real opportunity by the “ol’ girls club.” Mild irony in this group being seen as trailblazers while they sit on the heads of youngsters reaching for any opportunity.
    ******
    There’s definitely something to be argued for money made off of merch and ticket sales to increase exponentially. But to argue for “equal pay” on the supposed grounds of equal work doesn’t really mesh. (I mean, they’re already subsidizing your club pay, heck, the league) This isn’t a male and female heart surgeon performing the same operation, ya know?
    ******
    The USWNT has the benefit of being the only female sports team, perhaps globally, to approach (read: italics) even a struggling male pro sports franchise from a marketing perspective…and certainly not financially. While they have a leg to stand on regarding some of what they are going for, the whole stance still comes off like 28 women really just wanting to get themselves paid under the guise of being progressive. Because even in the vacuum of USSF, this isn’t comparable to any other female team situation on the planet.

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    • The other thing is, the ability to negotiate a better CBA (and with leverage) is there and upcoming, but “I am woman, hear me roar” was apparently more important. Funny enough, remember how wonderful that new CBA was lauded back in 2017? What happened? The men and women didn’t start existing in the same bubble, did they? Maybe I missed it. Sure, they won another Women’s World Cup (over a team from a soccer-mad country that responded with a collective yawn to their ladies making the final)…but what weight does that really carry exactly? It’s great, sure, but it doesn’t exist on any plane similar to any men’s senior tournament in no small part due to a complete lack of competitive equity, regionally and worldwide.

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      • From what the American media showed here, it appeared that Holland went nuts for their women’s team making the final. Perhaps that was creative propaganda? While the USWNT is popular, it generally happens around the World Cup and Olympic time and fades once the main event is over. Once the success of the Golden Generation fades, the WNT will come back down to earth.

  7. Let me know when US Soccer is paying the payroll for every MLS team. Because that is what they are doing for the women in their pathetic league. The only reason the women have a league is because US Soccer is footing the bill.

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  8. This ruling is a wake up call (or a slap in the face, depending on your political slant…) to the USWNT. Summary Judgment is granted when the judge finds that there is no genuine issue of material fact that is in dispute, and he’s able to apply the law to the facts in front of him. It’s basically saying that your case isn’t strong enough to even reach the trial phase.

    I don’t know anything about this judge, except that he’s 78 and a Bush appointee, so maybe this ruling isn’t a huge surprise. The appeal will be heard by the 9th Circuit, which is the most liberal appellate court in the country, so the case is definitely not over. Things get much more political (and probably politically correct) as the case works its way up the judicial system…

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    • The 9th circuit is currently being rebuilt by the Trump administration with constitutional originalists. It’s not as far left and politicized as it once was…things are changing.

      If this didn’t even make it to trial, the odds of traction in appeal are slim.

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      • JT- absolutely right that Trump has changed the makeup of the 9th circuit during his first 3 years (it’s now at 16 dem appointees and 13 rep, I believe). But they can‘t just ignore decades of precedent and do whatever they want. The shift in decisions, and possible swinging to the right (or center, at least), will take years, decades even, to be fully felt.

  9. Send the lawyers home. Negotiate a good contract for both sides. There’s plenty of financial room to that if the rest is put aside.

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  10. This will never end until we make One Team, equal athletic competition, may the best athlete make the team, a reality.

    Separate but equal is injustice!!! History has shown this, we have a chance to make change NOW. Change is hard but we can do it. One Team. Stop Separate but Equal. Don’t be on the wrong side of Theystory.

    Visualize change, we can make this world more FAIR.

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    • @TalentAdvisor

      not sure if your comment was tongue-in-cheek, but ending “separate but equal” is exactly what the women *don’t* want. if you put them all in one pool, no woman would even come close to making the team. “separate but equal” is the only thing keeping their careers sustainable at this level.

      it’s why, despite all the appeals to the public and phony outrage over cordeiro’s comments, their case was sunk (pending appeal): if you just look at the raw data, the women are getting paid more by ussf for their work, in accordance with the women’s own cba that they agreed to.

      now the working conditions (support and accommodations) section of the case is far more intriguing to me; i’m curious to see how that will turn out.

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    • What you’re advocating would leave no women playing soccer, they’d never make it on the same team as men in this sport.

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    • Yeah, I’m going to need more from you on that. Explain how exactly suing for fair and equal pay makes the World Cup-winning USWNT a bunch of spoiled brats. Back it up with cogent and compelling arguments.

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      • The union signed guarantee deal, while the ‘men’ team is base performance.
        Note: There’s huge difference in ratings and sponsorship for between the ‘men’ and ‘girls’.
        France 2019, did not fill-up many games at the price euro 18 per ticket, and female is World Cup does not reach over 100 million viewers, while men’s World Cup over a billion viewers.

      • What he was trying to say is that they are simply using their leverage on the national team to earn more money than they could earn outside of the USWNT, but no one wants to give them. This lawsuit was nothing more than a vain cash grab.

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