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The U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) players are getting their due — for themselves and for future players.
Five soccer stars, including Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, filed a lawsuit in 2019 alleging gender discrimination against U.S. Soccer. The suit accused the national federation of “Paying lower salaries to women and subjecting them to more dangerous playing conditions than their male counterparts.”
This week, it was announced that they have reached a $24 million settlement with the U.S. Soccer Federation. The terms of the landmark settlement state that “U.S. Soccer will pay men and women at an equal rate in the future in all friendlies and tournaments, including the World Cup.”
“For us, this is just a huge win in ensuring that we not only right the wrongs of the past, but set the next generation up for something we only dreamed of,” Rapinoe said on NBC’s TODAY show.
“We are really in the midst of an incredible turning point in women’s sport,” Rapinoe said, adding, “If you’re not paying attention to this right now and what’s happening in women’s sport, you’re sleeping on the whole thing.”
According to the settlement, U.S. Soccer will pay $22 million in back pay to settle the claims, and $2 million to a fund that benefits USWNT players in their post-soccer careers. Each player can apply for up to $50,000 from that fund.
The six year fight began in 2016 when attorneys for Rapinoe, Morgan and fellow top players Carli Lloyd, Rebecca Sauerbrunn and Hope Solo started the fight for equal pay. The players filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming the women’s team should be paid an equal amount as the U.S. Men’s National Team.
“We believe, now, the time is right because we believe it’s a responsibility for women’s sports, specifically women’s soccer, to really do whatever it takes for equal pay, and equal rights, and to be treated with respect,” Solo said on TODAY in 2016.
How It Came About
When the USWNT won the World Cup in 2015, they earned $2 million in prize money, while the men’s team — which lost, by the way — received $9 million.
“In 2019, 28 members of the USWNT filed a lawsuit against U.S. Soccer under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, alleging that women’s players were paid a total of $1.725 million in bonuses after winning the World Cup in 2015 while the men’s players were given $5.375 million in bonuses in 2014 by the same federation, despite being eliminated in the round of 16,” according to the filing.
A federal judge threw out the majority of the lawsuit in 2020, saying “The women’s players were actually paid more in total compensation than their male counterparts.” The athletes’ lawyers appealed, saying the women notably outperformed the men, who have never won a World Cup.
He wasn’t wrong!
Why U.S. Soccer Settled
U.S. Soccer opted to reach a settlement with the team to move forward, even after winning the first court case.
“Being in a contentious litigation with our players is not good for our sport,” USSF president Cindy Parlow Cone told TODAY. “I think this is a momentous occasion. This is a huge win for soccer, this is a huge win for U.S. Soccer, the players of women’s sport, and I’m just so excited to move forward together and actually start working with the women’s team to grow the game, both here at home and abroad.”
This is a well-earned victory not only for the USWNT but for all female athletes going forward.
The U.S. women’s national ice hockey team is another squad that is fighting for equal compensation, and this settlement kicks in the door to ensure women are compensated fairly for their outstanding athletic performance.
“I think we’re all going to look back on this moment with incredible pride,” Rapinoe said.
How do you feel about the USWNT lawsuit settlement? Tell us in the comments!
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