Five superstars from the women’s World Cup championship soccer team made history on Thursday when they filed a federal labor complaint against U.S. Soccer, claiming they’re paid just 40 percent as much as the men’s team players – despite generating tens of millions more in revenue.
Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Becky Sauerbrunn, Megan Rapinoe and Hope Solo filed the paperwork on behalf of the entire U.S. Women’s National Team, according to a press release from Winston & Strawn LLP, the law firm co-chaired by the women’s attorney Jeffrey Kessler.
Morgan said in an exclusive statement to PEOPLE: “Today was an historic day and one that we did not come to without a lot of consideration and hours of discussion. We believe that it is our duty to young girls everywhere to use our voices to shine the light on gender equality, so that girls of today will hopefully never have to have this conversation on the pitch or in the boardroom when they grow up.”
According to recent budget figures from U.S. Soccer, the women earn almost four times less than the athletes on the men’s team. The complaint, which was obtained by PEOPLE, asks the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate U.S. Soccer, the sport’s American governing body.
The women’s national team won the Women’s World Cup finals last summer – America’s first World Cup victory in 16 years. In comparison, the men’s team last made it past the World Cup round of 16 in 2002.
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In addition to wages, the women’s team also received far less in bonuses, as well as appearance fees and daily allowances, according to the claim. For sponsorship appearances, women earn $3,000, while the men take in $3,750, reported Sports Illustrated. The women make $1,350 each for a friendlies match win against a top-ranked team, while the men’s team players get paid $17,625 each for victory, and $5,000 for a loss.
The filing also reveals that the women’s team generated nearly $20 million more revenue than the men’s team.
“I’ve been on this team for a decade and a half, and I’ve been through numerous CBA negotiations, and honestly not much has changed,” Solo said during an appearance on Today, Thursday. “We continue to be told we should be grateful just to have the opportunity to play professional soccer, to get paid for doing it. In this day and age, it’s about equality. It’s about equal rights. It’s about equal pay. We’re pushing for that. We believe now the time is right because we believe it’s our responsibility for women’s sports and specifically for women’s soccer to do whatever it takes to push for equal pay and equal rights.”
In response to the filing, U.S. Soccer said in a statement provided to PEOPLE that they are “disappointed.”
“We understand the Women’s National Team Players Association is filing a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against U.S. Soccer,” U.S. Soccer said. “While we have not seen this complaint and can’t comment on the specifics of it, we are disappointed about this action. We have been a world leader in women’s soccer and are proud of the commitment we have made to building the women’s game in the United States over the past 30 years.”
Said Kessler during the Today appearance, “These women are very disappointed in U.S. Soccer. When they ask for the same treatment as the men, they were told it was irrational. That might be a good answer in 1816, but it’s not an acceptable answer in 2016.”
Some of the players involved have also spoken out on social media.
“Five players signed the complaint, but the decision to file was whole-heartedly supported by the entire team,” wrote Sauerbrunn on Thursday.
The EEOC will conduct an independent investigation before issuing its findings. Depending on the decision, the EEOC will seek relief for the women, according to the Winston & Strawn LLP press release.
In another statement, released Thursday, U.S. Soccer said they’ve been a “world leader” in promoting women’s soccer for 30 years, and are “committed” to negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with the Women’s National Team Players Association when the current CBA expires at the end of this year.
“U.S. Soccer will continue to be an advocate on the global soccer stage to influence and develop the women’s game and evolve FIFA’s compensation model,” U.S. Soccer said. “After three unsuccessful attempts by private entities to maintain a women’s professional league, U.S. Soccer committed to investing in and administering the National Women’s Soccer League to ensure our women’s players would have an ongoing professional environment in which to continue their careers. As part of this, Women’s National Team players are paid full-time salaries and other compensation.”