After the final whistle blew in Lyon, France on July 7, the crowd at the final match of the 2019 Women’s World Cup erupted into chants of “USA!” Just a few minutes later, however, when Gianni Infantino, President of FIFA, took to the pitch to hand out the medals, that chant quickly changed to “equal pay!” The U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) filed a lawsuit on March 8 (not coincidentally, National Women’s Day) in Los Angeles, but it was their win on July 7 that thrust their fight into the spotlight.
The USWNT won its second consecutive Women’s World Cup title in a row that day. The women’s team from Germany is the only other team to share that honor. But, the history-making members of the USWNT are not simply basking in their glory. They’re using it to fight for something they’ve long sought: equal pay.
Soccer’s Gender Pay Gap
The gender pay gap has long been a subject of heated debate. In general, women are paid roughly $0.80 on the dollar when compared to men in the same or similar positions. The pay gap in soccer, though, is much steeper. Female soccer players are paid less than $0.40 on the dollar when compared to their men counterparts, according to the lawsuit.
The USWNT turned to the numbers to prove they’re underpaid. For example, the lawsuit cites the bonuses awarded to the men’s team for their performance in the World Cup in 2014. The U.S. Soccer Federation, the defendant in the lawsuit, paid the men’s team over $5 million in bonuses after the 2014 World Cup. The women received $1.725 million after the 2015 World Cup. The kicker (pun intended) is that the women won, while the men were eliminated in the round of 16.
Some argue that it’s a matter of revenue, not of performance. Well, in response to that claim, the USWNT point to the fact that the 2015 U.S. Women’s World Cup Final is the most watched soccer match in American history. The 2019 final likely would have broken that record, but for the time zone difference. In 2015, the final was played in Vancouver and aired at prime time in the United States. The 2019 final in France, however, kicked off at 8 a.m. on the west coast. Additionally, the USWNT team jersey has become the best-selling soccer jersey of all time for Nike.
Fair Play and Treatment
The lawsuit is not all about the numbers, however. Playing and training facilities as well as travel accommodations are at issue, too. The USWNT points to the fact that the US Soccer Federation chartered 17 flights for the men’s team in 2017 and 0 for the women. The women were also forced to play over 20% of their games on artificial turf. The men, however, played only 2% of their games on the much more dangerous material.
It’s hard to turn on the television these days without seeing Megan Rapinoe’s face and hearing her words as she leads the way fighting for equal pay for those she plays with and for the millions of girls that will follow in her wake. The amazing effort by the entire team in France this summer has given the USWNT more exposure than it has ever known, and they are hoping to use it to achieve equality in pay and treatment.