Despite their high levels of influence and exceptional skill, female players are paid far less than their male counterparts of the national team.
Holding the title of reigning World Cup and Olympic champions is apparently not enough to earn you the same payment as the other guys, as five key members of the United States women’s national soccer team have discovered.
Players who have become household names, including co-captains Carli Lloyd and Becky Sauerbrunn, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, and Hope Solo, filed a formal federal complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Wednesday. The complaint charges U.S. Soccer with wage discrimination, contending that these women – some of the most prominent and decorated female athletes in the world – are the driving economic force of the sport in the States. Despite their high levels of influence and exceptional skill, female players are paid far less than their male counterparts of the national team, as lawyer Jeffrey Kessler confirms.
In fact, based on the official budget figures U.S. Soccer released, Kessler says female players earn as little as 40 percent of what the nation’s male players earn. The wages of the women’s national team pales even further in comparison to international superstars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, who earn millions from not only team contracts, but from endorsements and sponsorships as well. The players who filed the complaint stated they were acting on behalf of their entire team, all of whom act as employees of U.S. Soccer, and further demand it be recognized that they are shortchanged on everything from bonuses to appearance fees.
While some of the players have maintained a diplomatic approach, goalie Hope Solo was far more blunt in her comparison between the men and women’s teams.
“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.”
As Kessler lamented, “this is the strongest case of discrimination against women athletes in violation of law that I have ever seen.” The frustrations and discrimination of the women’s national team fall suit with other high-profile sports that have recently come under fire for unequal pay, most prominently professional tennis.
Their plight is aggravated by recurrent issues with pay, working conditions, and travel arrangements in past years, despite their far superior record. The men’s national team, on the other hand? Stars like Landon Donovan gain millions from their team contracts and endorsements, with the most noteworthy achievement in the past 50 years being a quarterfinal appearance at the 2002 World Cup.
The men and women’s teams “have identical work requirements,” Kessler stated. “The same number of minimum friendlies, the same requirements about participating and making the World Cup teams — identical work. But the women have without dispute vastly outperformed the men not just on the playing field but economically for the U.S.S.F. The women have generated all the money in comparison with the men.” Kessler went on to divulge that the Federation made a profit of $16 million on the women’s team, whereas they actually sustained a loss from the men’s.
The success of the women’s national team, including setting the television record for the highest rates soccer match in U.S. history and ranking as the most-watched soccer event at the 2015 World Cup, allowed budget predictions to project even greater revenues over the course of the next two years. In 2017 alone, the women’s team will generate roughly $8 million more in revenue than the men’s team; the disparity between these figures further demands the question as to how U.S. Soccer officials will respond.
While it is unclear how long the complaint will take to be resolved or whether the Commission will rule in favor or against the women’s national team, it is clear that definite changes in financial parity must be made to close the wage gap between male and female athletes.
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