The U.S. men’s national team asked a federal appeals court to reinstate wage claims against the U.S. Soccer Federation filed by women’s national team players.
“The men stand with the women in their fight to secure the equal pay they deserve,” lawyers for the team said in a friend of the court brief filed Friday with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“The United States Soccer Federation markets the United States men’s and women’s national teams under the slogan, ‘One Nation. One Team.’ But for more than 30 years, the federation has treated the women’s national team players as second-class citizens, discriminating against the women in their wages and working conditions and paying them less than the men’s national team players, even as U.S. Soccer has enjoyed a period of extraordinary financial growth.”
The filing was made as the women were about to play the Netherlands in the quarterfinals of the Olympic soccer tournament in Japan. The women are four-time World Cup champions, and the men failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
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Players led by Alex Morgan sued the USSF in March 2019, contending they have not been paid equitably under their collective bargaining agreement that runs through December 2021 compared to what the men’s team receives under its agreement that expired in December 2018. The women asked for more than $64 million in damages plus $3 million in interest under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner in Los Angeles threw out the pay claim in May 2020, ruling the women rejected a pay-to-play structure similar to the one in the men’s agreement and accepted greater base salaries and benefits than the men. The women asked the 9th Circuit to overrule the trial court’s ruling and put their wage claim back on track.
A three-judge panel is likely to hear oral arguments late this year or in early 2022.
“The federation 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,” the men’s lawyers said. “The District Court’s oversimplified math made the women victims both of their own success and of the men’s atypical struggles in 2017-2018. A woman’s rate of pay is not equal to a man’s if the woman must consistently achieve better outcomes merely to get to the same place.”
Women and the USSF reached a settlement Dec. 1 on working condition claims that calls for charter flights, hotel accommodations, venue selection and professional staff support equitable to that of the men’s team. The USSF says it pays equally for matches it controls but not for tournaments organized by soccer’s world governing body.
FIFA awarded $400 million in prize money for the 32 teams at the 2018 men’s World Cup, including $38 million to champion France. It awarded $30 million for the 24 teams at the 2019 Women’s World Cup, including $4 million to the U.S. after the Americans won their second straight title.
FIFA has increased the total to $440 million for the 2022 men’s World Cup, and its president, Gianni Infantino, has proposed FIFA double the women’s prize money to $60 million for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, in which FIFA has increased the teams to 32.
The men’s lawyers contended the federation “sends a corrosive public message to women and girls that, even at the highest level, no matter how hard they work or how much they succeed, they can and will be diminished and undervalued by their employers.”