The best women’s soccer players in the world lost in court last week.
According to Sports Illustrated, U.S. District Judge Gary Klausner released an order that sided with the United States Soccer Federation when it comes to the unequal pay allegations brought against the USSF by members of the U.S. women’s national team in a lawsuit filed in March 2019.
The two-time reigning World Cup champions can appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. First, their remaining allegations are scheduled to go to a jury trial June 16. Klausner has ordered the jury to look into the 28 plaintiffs’ allegations of discriminatory working conditions and issues with assorted personnel and support services.
The women’s players say they are paid less than their counterparts on the less successful men’s national team, and that U.S. Soccer is violating the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which make it illegal for employers to discriminate pay based on gender and other demographic characteristics. U.S. Soccer and Judge Klausner have suggested that any unequal pay is due to the negotiations bargained by the teams’ respective unions. The women’s players are paid largely through guaranteed money, while the men have less guaranteed money but more chances to earn bonuses.
“The history of negotiations between the parties demonstrates that the WNT rejected an offer to be paid under the same pay-to-play structure as the MNT, and that the WNT was willing to forgo higher bonuses for other benefits, such as greater base compensation and the guarantee of a higher number of contracted players,” Klausner said.
According to Sports Illustrated, Klausner concluded that empirical evidence and testimony from both sides appear to show that the women’s players have earned more than the men’s players. Klausner noted that the women’s national team played 111 total games between 2015 and 2019, earning $24.5 million in salaries for an average of $221,000 per game. The men played 87 games, earning $18.5 million in salaries — an average of $213,000 per game.
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According to ESPN, a July 2019 letter from former U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro showed that from 2010 to 2018, women’s players were paid $34.1 million in salary and game bonuses, while the men earned $25.4 million.
Cordeiro resigned in March, after the leaking of court filings that showed the USSF said the men’s soccer team has “more responsibility” and a “higher level of skill” than their counterparts.
“A reasonable juror could conclude that the job MNT player requires materially different skill and more responsibility than Plaintiff’s job does, while also taking place under materially different working conditions,” the filing said, according to CNN.
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Klausner found evidence to support the women’s players’ claims of poor travel conditions. From 2015 to 2020, U.S. Soccer spent $9 million on airfare for men’s national team players and $5 million for women’s players, despite the women playing more games. Therefore, Klausner found a “gross disparity in money spent on airfare and hotels for the teams,” and noted that a jury should determine whether or not the disparities reflect discriminatory motive. He also asked the jury to review the alleged disparities in medical and training support.
Presidential candidate Joe Biden tweeted at the USWNT on Saturday, saying “don’t give up this fight. This is not over yet,” and telling U.S. Soccer to pay the teams equally, “or else when I’m president, you can go elsewhere for World Cup funding.”
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