World Cup champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist Hope Solo is one of only a handful of American female soccer players who would qualify as a household name. Because women's soccer has fewer viewers than men's, and thus brings in less money, some argue that it doesn't justify as high a wage. But unlike with a lot of other sports, men's and women's soccer in America share the same employer, meaning that the women are in fact being paid less for the exact same job.
In August 2016, Solo was controversially suspended for what the United States Soccer Federation says was misconduct, and what Solo says was retaliation for being a vocal critic of its refusal to pay its female players equally.
VICE Impact recently sat down with Solo to get her perspective on what it will take to see equal pay.
VICE Impact: So Norway recently became the first country to pay their women's soccer team equally to their men's -- this looks bad for the United States, right? Do you think the United States Soccer Federation will be next?
Hope Solo: What I can say is that my assumption -- and I'm admitting it's an assumption -- is that the United States Soccer Federation would have wanted to be the leaders in the payment of women, and it does look bad for them. Because for the history of women's soccer, they've paid women more than any other country. Not that it was adequate enough, but they have paid women more than any other country. So the fact that [United States Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati] and U.S. soccer can't be the frontrunner to say, 'we are the first country to pay equally,' it looks bad on a country where we have more rights, it looks bad on a country where we have the number one team in the world. It looks bad on a country that has such a rich history in football.
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So, I think what Norway did, it's absolutely incredible. They had support from the men's football team as well, so perhaps it wouldn't have happened without the television contracts of the men, but they found a way to make it happen. So I can only imagine that other federations are going to make it happen, but knowing Sunil [Gulati, president of the United States Soccer Federation] and knowing the U.S. Soccer Federation, they're going to fight it tooth and nail.
Do you think once a few more countries adopt equal pay the United States will be pressured enough to do the same?
You have to look at how quickly the snowball effect took place. I mean, they already have -- if you look at Ireland, Australia, Brazil, it's starting and I can only imagine more countries want to do it.It's only a matter of time. I'm hoping it's soon.
"I believe ethically it's right for every country to give women the same opportunities to make as much money [as men]"
Where do you feel women's soccer falls on the spectrum of equal pay in sports?
It's a little different in America, because although I believe ethically it's right for every country to give women the same opportunities to make as much money [as men], to have as big of television contracts they need to have more people in the stands, which means they have to pour more money into the women's game. So until that happens it's almost impossible.
But in America, there's a lot [of sports] right? So U.S. soccer shouldn't be able to get away with it.
But then if you look at, say, women's professional basketball, they don't have the same employer; it's the WNBA and then it's the NBA. So the law doesn't apply … I would say that in professional sports [that's common practice] but not when you're playing for your country. Because then that's backed by the federations … I know with the WNBA some of the players still have to have outside jobs.
Is this your main focus right now, and has the current political climate shaken up any of this?
It's ongoing. I'm going to fight this till the end. And we have the lawsuit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the United States, so as soon as we get the verdict from them I think it could change the entire dynamic of sports in America, as well as worldwide.
But we need the Equal Employment Opportunity Commision to make a verdict, obviously according to law, in our favor. Things are a little bit different in America now with the new administration and the White House and Donald Trump. I pray and I hope that right now that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would do their job, but I'm not sure President Trump will continue to push that. It's a little scary, but all we can do is continue, and I'm not gonna stop fighting.