By Ethan Narimatsujayne
The U.S. Women’s National Team is one of the most dominant sports teams in history. The team has won four World Cup titles, the most of all time. They have also won half of the championships since 1991. In 2019, they became one of the only teams to win back-to-back championships and broke their own record (for largest margin of victory) with a 13-0 win over Thailand.
The men’s team’s accomplishments in recent years are outmatched by the women’s team. The men failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, defeated by Trinidad and Tobago in the qualifying rounds, yet they are getting paid more than the women’s team who are doing all of the winning.
On Women’s Day, Mar. 8, 2019 the team filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation in LA seeking $67 million in damages for using gender stereotypes in deciding how the athletes would be paid.
They are suing for violating the Equal Pay Act of 1963. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 is a federal law that protects employees from discrimination against certain characteristics such as race, sex, color, national origin and religion. The goal of this law is to ensure that employers would pay employees based on their job and how well they do it, not based on the “certain characteristics” listed above.
The way the contracts were designed, the women got a salary with added bonuses for training, games and international victories, while the men don’t get a salary, only bonuses. However, the way this works out causes the women to get paid less for better and more work.
The lawsuit brings up an example that stated if both teams won 20 games in a row, the women would earn 89% of what their male counterparts earned. And in 2014, the U.S. Federation paid the men’s team $5.4 million in bonuses for the World Cup even though they had a less than subpar round of 16 eliminations. In contrast, the women won the whole tournament and only got around $1.725 million.
And it gets even worse when it comes to FIFA, the worldwide soccer organization that holds the World Cup. For the women’s World Cup the prize money totaled $30 million in the 2019 World Cup while the men’s World Cup prize money was $400 million. The World Cup champions for the women’s World Cup walked away with $4 million in prize money, while the men’s World Cup winner (France) had $38 million, which is more than the total prize money for the women’s World Cup.
The inequality does not only apply to pay. The women’s team is also being given fewer resources such as worse playing fields and unequal travel conditions. In 2014-2017, the women’s team played 21% of their domestic matches on artificial turf (middle school clubs regularly play on artificial turf) compared to just 2% of men.
This is outrageous because not only is the women’s team much better, as they have more international victories than the men, the women’s games have actually generated almost $1 million more. Additionally, the 2019 Women’s World Cup (USA vs Netherlands) brought in more viewers than the Men’s World Cup final and Nike has stated that the women’s jersey is their most sold soccer jersey of all time.
The winning attitude and record that the women’s team has had brought in many sponsors and more attention to the sport in general, which greatly helps the support and generates revenue. So the women’s teams are making more money for the U.S. Soccer Federation yet they are being paid less and given unequal treatment compared to the men.
“It honestly blew my mind that women get paid less in soccer because at the end of the day they bring home more World Cups than men. I don’t get why they get paid less since they are doing more than what the men do,” Elysia Delgadillo, a high school athlete who recently did research about this case, said.
The U.S. Soccer Federation is claiming that since the contracts are designed differently you cannot claim that they are unfair based on sex. The main struggle for the team will be proving in court that the contracts were designed to discriminate on the basis of sex as opposed to just being different contracts.
In an interview with Zoe Silva, a female high school soccer player, and Elysia Delgadillo, both expressed frustration about the whole event. Delgadillo said, “When most people think of U.S. soccer they think of the women’s team first. It’s kind of unfair because women have fought for things including other stuff in the world.” and “It just kind of sucks that after we fight for other things personally…. That we still get treated less than men do.”
When asked about personnel discrimination in sports, Silva said, “We actually got a choice for coaches for Sporting [Santa Clara Sporting is the team Ms. Silva plays for] the person who was more experienced and with the team (the girl’s team) went to a different team because the boys requested it, and so we had our coach replaced and since they were boys they got it.”
Ms. Silva’s coach (who was very experienced) was sent to one of the boy’s teams just because they requested it while the girl’s team was given a less experienced coach.
These institutional problems don’t only affect women on a national level.
In a separate interview with Shelby Funes, another high schooler who plays soccer, she said, “I think it (the USWNT equal pay case) could affect society because it is showing how a lot of people don’t get treated equally.”
This is most likely the case. This situation has been heavily covered by media and has shown, as Funes said, how women and other minorities are being treated less because of institutional problems throughout our society. Also, the fact that soccer is the most popular sport and the women’s team contains many soccer icons such as Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan is also helping to spread awareness about this topic.
When asked about what we as the public should do, Silva said, “We should speak up more about the topic because people rarely talk about it [USWNT equal pay case].”
As Silva stated, we as a public need to make our voices heard and speak up. This case has brought national and international attention. This could be one of the major events in women’s suffrage. It is up to us the public to back up our world champion women’s soccer team in the fight against sexism and the fight for equality.