Soccer Shocker: US Women’s National Team has equal pay case dismissed

June 15, 2020

2 min read

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What's going on here?

On 1 May 2020 California District Judge Gary Klausner dismissed the equal pay case advanced by 28 members of the US Women’s Soccer team (USNWT) including Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan. The Women’s team filed an appeal on 8 May 2020.

What does this mean?

Prominent members of the wildly successful USNWT who have formerly won 4 world cup titles, joined together in a case in early March 2019. They argued that being paid less than their male counterparts, for each appearance and win, counted as discrimination under the Equal Pay Act 2006. Judge Gary Klausner ruled that this was not the case even though many prominent figures offered their support for the women’s case, including the men’s national team and US Presidential candidate Joe Biden. The women also argued they had been discriminated against with regards to the money spent on their flights and hotel accommodation, a filing which was allowed to advance.

What's the big picture effect?

Judge Klausner decided his ruling mainly by saying that the women were not paid less than the men but had instead negotiated a different pay structure. The USNWT opted for a collective bargaining agreement which provided more security to their players than the  men’s team in exchange for lower bonuses. This was done via measures such as a higher constant base salary whether a player plays or not, and more contracted players. Judge Klausner therefore decided that the Women’s team were paid fairly and had not been discriminated against. Arguably, his decision may have at least partly been influenced by the fact that in July 2019, the Soccer Federation president Carlos Cordeiro alleged that the USNWT had made $34.1m in salary and game bonuses from 2010-2018 as compared to $26.4m given to the men’s team. However, these figures were denied by representatives of the USNWT, and must also be put into context with the runaway success of the USNWT compared to their male counterparts’ string of losses.

Whether you feel that this case was decided rightly or wrongly, there must at least be some thought paid to the fact that the successful women’s national team are paid less for appearances, goals and wins than the men’s team who are in a period of poor performance. This case is obviously very specific, equal pay in women’s soccer, but the question and struggle it encapsulates; why women are often paid less for performing as well or better than their male counterparts, is one that every business, sporting organisation and individual must ask themselves and address.

Report written by Hari Majumdar

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