The United States Women’s Soccer Team (USWNT) beat the Netherlands 2-0 to win the FIFA Women’s World Cup on July 7. This is the latest crowning achievement from a frontrunner who also won the tournament in 2015 as well as in 1991 and 1998. No other women’s soccer team has been as dominant, with Olympic medals also part of the resume.
However, it was not just the dominant play on the soccer pitch that was newsworthy; the USWNT has also been outspoken in their views on equal pay for play as well as fair treatment. This advocacy by the team, and particularly captain Megan Rapinoe, led critics to chastise the team for its politics. Even President Trump entered the fray when his invitation for the team to visit the White House was rejected by Rapinoe and other team members who believed that he and others like him do not represent their best interests.
Equal pay by USSF
The USWNT filed a suit on International Women’s Day (March 8) that allege the U.S. Men’s National Team gets better pay and treatment despite never coming close to the success of the women’s team. The class-action suit, in part, reads:
“At this moment of tremendous pride for America, the sad equation remains all too clear, and Americans won’t stand for it anymore. These athletes generate more revenue and garner higher TV ratings but get paid less simply because they are women,” said Molly Levinson, spokeswoman for the USWNT players in their equal pay lawsuit.
The suit also alleges that gender-based discrimination includes:
- Lesser training facilities and support staff for development
- Traveling by bus while the men fly charter planes to matches
- Less promotion of matches
- Worse playing conditions where they were sometimes forced to play on fake turf, which could lead to injury
The USWNT and the USSF tentatively agreed to mediation before the beginning of the tournament. Considering their dominant success, support from many places, including businesses and sponsors as well as the record ratings for the final, the women have only strengthened their case. Perhaps the most telling moment was when the stadium crowd chanted “equal pay” in the final moments.
FIFA is also in the crosshairs
The lawsuit has nothing to do with World Cup prize money, but there likely will be serious damage control in the coming weeks. The men’s tournament paid $400 million in prize money for 2018 with that number going up to $440 million in 2022. The women’s tournament pay was $30 million (to all teams involved) in 2019. The women’s pay scheduled to double for 2023, but this does not come close to matching the amount paid to the men.
The new #MeToo?
The #MeToo movement has taken down significant figures in media, industry and elsewhere, redefining acceptable professional behavior in the workplace. The USWNT appears to have launched the next movement, which will likely embolden others who may not be in the spotlight. Businesses are advised to reevaluate their pay structures to ensure that they do not get caught up in this soccer-inspired movement.