The fight between U.S. Soccer and the United States Women's National Team over the collective bargaining agreement is intensifying. Last February, U.S. Soccer sued the the women's team, saying it was doing so reluctantly to prevent the players from repudiating the CBA and potentially striking. Somewhere along the way the federation also published the personal information of 28 players, including the most visible stars, in court filings. Now five members of the team—Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, and Becky Sauerbrunn—have filed a federal complaint on behalf of the entire team with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging wage discrimination. While it won't have any bearing on the negotiations or the pending suit filed by U.S. Soccer, it is another show of force from USWNT. The gist of it is: the men's team stinks and gets much, much more money than USWNT, who actually win tournaments.
The pay disparity argument between men's and women's sports in general is gaining traction, most notably in tennis. The USWNT is in prime position to turn this from a debate to tangible results. They are coming off a World Cup win in Canada, besting Japan 5-2 in the final, and they are hands down the most recognizable American soccer stars. And they know it.
"We have been quite patient over the years with the belief that the federation would do the right thing and compensate us fairly," Lloyd, the most valuable player of last year's Women's World Cup, said in a statement released by the players and Kessler. Solo was more blunt in the statement, directly comparing the women's achievements with those of the men's national team. "The numbers speak for themselves," Solo said. "We are the best in the world, have three World Cup championships, four Olympic championships, and the U.S.M.N.T. get paid more to just show up than we get paid to win major championships."
Appearing on The Today Show with Matt Lauer, Solo continued to hammer away, saying "we continue to be told that we should be grateful just to have the opportunity to play professional soccer and to get paid for doing it. And in this day and age, it's about equality, it's about equal rights, it's about equal pay....we believe it's our responsibility for women's sports and specifically for women's soccer to really do whatever it takes to push for equal pay and equal rights and be treated with respect."
One of the typical arguments for the disparate pay between men's and women's sports is the disparate popularity and therefore revenue earned by men's sports as opposed to women's. USWNT has that covered, too. Jeffrey Kessler, the women's attorney, noted that according to U.S. Soccer's own numbers, the federation made over $16 million off the USWNT last year, while the men's team cost $2 million. To say nothing of the disparity in salaries, bonuses, appearance fees, hotel accommodations and per diems. While he has an obvious dog in the fight, Kessler termed this "the strongest case of discrimination against women athletes in violation of law that I have ever seen."