U.S. Women’s Soccer Settles Discrimination Lawsuit, Still Pursuing Higher Pay

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The U.S. Soccer Federation has settled a lawsuit with the United States Women’s National (Soccer) Team (USWNT) that claimed that women faced discrimination because men soccer players had better hotel rooms, playing venues and got to fly charter flights instead of commercial flights.

The settlement means that the women’s team, which won the last World Cup tournament, will get amenities equal to their male counterparts.

“I hope that the women and their lawyers see that we are taking a new approach,” Cindy Parlow Cone, a former player who replaced Federation President Carlos Cordeiro until the 2022 election after Cordeiro stepped down after USSF argued in court that there were differences in requirements for women and men players.

“We want the women’s team as well as their lawyers to see that we want to move in a different direction,” Parlow Cone said. “We want to have a different relationship with them. We want to work together. And I think they’re starting to see that. And we have to continue down this path.”

The Associated Press (AP) reported on the settlement:

Players sued the USSF in March 2019 claiming they have not been paid equitably under their collective bargaining agreement that runs through December 2021, compared to what the men’s team receives under its agreement that expired in December 2018. The women asked for more than $66 million in damages under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

[U.S. District Judge R. Gary] Klausner dismissed the pay claim in May, ruling the women rejected a pay-to-play structure similar to the one in the men’s agreement and accepted greater base salaries and benefits than the men, who failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

But Klausner allowed aspects of their allegations of discriminatory working conditions to be put to trial, which had been scheduled for next month. With those issues settled, the players may now ask the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to restore the wage claims.

“We are pleased that the USWNT players have fought for — and achieved — long-overdue equal working conditions,” players’ spokeswoman Molly Levinson said in the AP report. “We now intend to file our appeal to the court’s decision, which does not account for the central fact in this case that women players have been paid at lesser rates than men who do the same job.

“We remain as committed as ever to our work to achieve the equal pay that we legally deserve. Our focus is on the future and ensuring we leave the game a better place for the next generation of women who will play for this team and this country.”

Ironically, an analysis done under Cordeiro’s leadership showed that the difference in pay between men and women players has more to do with pay structure than discrimination, according to a report in the Denver Post in July 2019:

U.S. Soccer says the players on the World Cup champion women’s national team were paid more than their male counterparts from 2010 through 2018. According to a letter released Monday by U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro, the federation has paid out $34.1 million in salary and game bonuses to the women as opposed to $26.4 million paid to the men. Those figures do not include benefits received only by the women, like health care.

The federation released the figures as it moves toward mediating a federal lawsuit in which players for the women’s team accused U.S. Soccer of “institutionalized gender discrimination” that includes inequitable compensation when compared to players on the men’s team.

Comparing compensation between the two teams is difficult because the pay structure is based on different collective bargaining agreements. For example, players for the women’s team have a base salary while the men are paid based on matches and performance.

“In the weeks ahead, we’ll focus on preparing for mediation and resolving this matter in the best interests of the WNT and U.S. Soccer,” Cordeiro wrote at the time. “I want you to know that U.S. Soccer is committed to doing right by our players, and I’ve been encouraged by the public comments from players expressing their desire for a cooperative approach. I remain optimistic that we can find common ground.”

Cordeiro said the federation conducted an extensive analysis of its finances over the past 10 years, “seeking to clear up what he called confusion based on the pay structures for both teams.”

“U.S. Soccer said it pays the women’s national team players a base salary of $100,000 per year, and an additional $67,500 to $72,500 per player as a salary for playing in the National Women’s Soccer League. The women also have health care benefits and a retirement plan,” the Post reported. “Conversely, players on the men’s national team are paid by training camp call-ups, game appearances and through performance bonuses. The federation says the men have the ability to earn higher bonuses that the women.”

USSF reports that the men’s team generates more revenue — $185.7 over 191 games — while the women’s team generated $101.3 million over the course of 238 games between 2009 and 2019.

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