The U.S. Soccer Federation has sent a “corrosive” message to the women’s national team by refusing to pay them for their work during the 2019 World Cup, according to the union representing the players.
The U.S. Soccer Federation sent a corrosive message to the women’s soccer team, according to the men’s union.
As the equal pay lawsuit between the United States women’s national team and the United States Soccer Federation moves forward, representatives from the United States men’s team have weighed in, accusing US Soccer of treating women as “second-class citizens” and sending “a corrosive public message to women and girls.”
The explosive amicus brief, signed by members of the men’s players’ union, was one of many submitted on Friday in support of the USWNT’s pay discrimination case appeal. Last year, a judge dismissed the USWNT’s lawsuit, ruling that the women were paid more than the men, but the team’s lawyers filed an appeal last week, claiming that the dismissal was “legally incorrect” and “defies reality” because it ignored the impact of the USWNT’s higher win rate on the players’ compensation.
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The men’s union backed the USWNT’s appeal, writing in a brief filed on Friday that the USSF “has spent more than three decades treating the women as an afterthought, discriminating against them through inferior wages and working conditions, and forcing the women to struggle for the equal pay and fair treatment they deserve.”
According to the brief, this trend will continue “sends a toxic public message to women and girls that, no matter how hard they work or how successful they are, they can and will be reduced and devalued by their employers, even at the highest levels. That is both demoralizing and illegal.”
The USSF issued the following statement: “U.S. Soccer, like the players of our senior national teams, is dedicated to equitable compensation. We will continue to work with both our Men’s and Women’s National Teams to equalize FIFA prize money and plan a constructive way ahead for the game’s growth both in the United States and across the globe.”
Although the US men’s team’s union has previously supported up the USWNT’s claims of uneven pay in public comments, this is the union’s first direct involvement in the USWNT’s case. The brief was signed by Mark S. Levinstein, the men’s union’s executive director, and attorney Zachary D. Tripp.
The men’s union claims to have “unique insight into the history of collective bargaining negotiations” between the federation and its teams, as well as “a keen understanding of the Federation’s long-standing discrimination against the Women’s National Team and its players,” according to the statement.
The brief specifically challenges the district court judge’s finding that the women were paid more than the males, and it urges the appeal court to hear the case. Last year, the court approved U.S. Soccer’s investigation, which revealed that the men were paid $212,639 per game and the women were paid $220,747. The total compensation given to both teams was divided by the number of games each side played to arrive at this conclusion.
“The district court’s simplistic arithmetic rendered the women victims both of their own success and of the men’s unusual difficulties in 2017-2018,” according to the men’s union brief. Because the women won two World Cups between 2015 and 2019, while the men failed to qualify for a World Cup for the first time in more than 30 years, the women were entitled to higher performance incentives. According to the men’s union, the court made its decision “without differentiating between appearance costs and performance incentives.”
According to both the men’s union and the USWNT’s appeal, the victory incentives available to women were lower in virtually every situation than those offered to men.
According to the brief, “a woman’s rate of pay is not comparable to a man’s if the woman must regularly produce superior results just to get to the same position.” “The per-game difference would have been apparent, glaring, and irrefutable if the women had won fewer games, or if the district court had examined a more representative period of the men’s performance as a point of comparison.”
This is a similar argument to the one made by the USWNT’s legal staff in their appeal last week. The attorneys for the USWNT presented the example of a man and a woman who both perform the same job and are paid an hourly salary plus a sales commission. They claimed that paying a woman a lower salary or commission and then expecting her to work longer hours or produce more sales to receive the same total remuneration as her male equivalent would not be fair.
In rejecting the USWNT’s lawsuit, the court also said that the women’s and men’s teams had distinct pay systems that the players collectively negotiated for, and therefore the two contracts could not be compared.
The guys on the USMNT are paid for appearances and caps (when a player is called in to camp or plays), as well as incentives when they win, according to their contracts. The women, on the other hand, are compensated using a hybrid system in which certain players are paid based on call-ups and caps, while others are given salaries regardless of making teams, plus victory bonuses.
In his decision, the court said, “The WNT expressly rejected the conditions they now want to retrospectively impose upon itself.” Last Monday, the USWNT filed an appeal, claiming that the court was incorrect: the women had been offered the same contract structure as the men, but never the same cash amounts.
The men’s union brief supports the USWNT’s argument that it has a different contract than the men’s team because US Soccer pushed the women to do so. The brief claims that the district court’s interpretation of the collective bargaining process was “completely defective.”
The men’s union claims that since women couldn’t market their services to other employers because they can only play for one federation, they were put into “an unsustainable negotiating position” when U.S. Soccer declined to give them the same contract as men.
The district court endorsed the Federation’s long-running abuse of its total control over athletes’ ability to represent the United States to impose unfair compensation arrangements by dismissing the women’s claims of discriminatory pay as nothing more than a bargained-for result, according to the brief. According to the brief, the USWNT’s contract may violate discrimination statutes despite going through a collective bargaining process because of the “enormous power imbalance.”
The brief also claims that instead of paying women equally, U.S. Soccer “spent significant money on litigation and lobbying in the mistaken goal of maintaining a system that classifies women as second-class citizens.”
U.S. Soccer has denied discriminating against the USWNT, and following last week’s appeal, the organization released a statement stating it “is dedicated to equitable pay and ensuring that our Women’s National Team remains the finest in the world.”
On Friday, the USWNT advanced to the semi-finals of the Tokyo Olympics, defeating the Netherlands 4-2 on penalties to set up a match against Canada.
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