Megan Rapinoe Says She Was Told 'Women Do Not Deserve to Be Paid Equally' as USWNT Seek $66M in Damages

The lawsuit, which was filed in March 2019, alleges gender-based discrimination by the U.S. Soccer Federation

USA Women's Soccer Team - 2019 SheBelieves Cup - United States v England
The U.S. women’s national soccer team. Photo: Action Foto Sport/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The players on the United States women’s national soccer team are asking to be awarded over $66 million in damages as part of their equal pay lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation.

In the lawsuit, which was filed in March 2019 in Los Angeles federal court under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the players — which include Alex Morgan, Becky Sauerbrunn, Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe — claim that they are not paid equally to the men’s national players. They also allege they have experienced “institutionalized gender discrimination,” despite having the same job responsibilities.

In a Thursday court filing, both sides asked the judge to issue a summary judgment ahead of their scheduled trial, which is slated to start on May 5, according to Sports Illustrated. The legal term refers to a judgment entered for one party without a full trial.

U.S. Soccer has also filed a motion hoping to have the case dismissed, according to ESPN.

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The team celebrating Rapinoe’s game-winning goal in the 2019 Women’s World Cup final. Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Among the documents included in the court filing is a copy of the collective bargaining agreements for both the men and women’s teams, which show both the different pay structures and the differences in bonuses between the teams, according to the Associated Press.

For instance, individual players from the women’s team earned $52,500 for making the roster during all five World Cup qualifying matches, in addition to $147,500 for their time at the World Cup, a $37,500 roster bonus and an additional $110,000 for winning the tournament, according to the outlet.

Meanwhile, when the men’s team last qualified for the World Cup in 2014, the players split a $2 million pool, the outlet notes. The men’s players also split an additional $3.6 million for advancing to the round of 16 and each player went on to earn $55,000 for making the roster and an additional $5,500 for every match played.

The agreement, which will remain in effect until December 2021, also prohibits the women’s team from going on strike before the 2020 Olympics as a bargaining tactic.

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In their own motion, the U.S. Soccer Federation has argued that the women’s team, which is represented by a separate union from the men’s team, rejected a “pay-to-play agreement” that was similar to the men’s team.

“At the moment, the Women’s National Team players are paid differently because they specifically asked for, and negotiated, a completely different contract than the Men’s National Team, despite being offered, and rejecting, a similar pay-to-play agreement during the past negotiations,” the USSF said in a statement to ESPN.

They also argued that the work done by the two teams is different and “the law does not guarantee identical pay to men and women who perform different work in different jobs,” according to Forbes.

Molly Levinson, a spokesperson for the players, has claimed in a statement to ESPN that the “pay to play structure” proposed by USSF during the most recent negotiations came “with less pay across the board.”

”In the most recent CBA negotiation, USSF repeatedly said that equal pay was not an option regardless of pay structure,” Levinson said in the statement. “In every instance for a friendly or competitive match, the women players were offered less pay than their male counterparts. This is the very definition of gender discrimination, and of course, the players rejected it.”

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Denis Balibouse/Reuters

Earlier this month, the United States National Soccer Team Players Association, which represents the men’s team, came out in support of the women’s team.

“What we believe should happen is simple. Pay the women significantly more than our recently expired men’s deal,” they wrote in a statement, noting that “ In our estimation, the women were due at least triple” what they were paid.

A hearing for the summary judgment motions is slated to take place on March 30, according to SI.

“We greatly admire and respect the tremendous athletes on the senior Women’s National Team and our aim is to come to a resolution so we can continue working collaboratively to advance the sport,” a spokesperson for the USWNT team said in a statement. “U.S. Soccer has been the world leader in the women’s game for more than three decades, demonstrating first-hand how a long-standing investment in women’s soccer can drive success at the highest level. We are incredibly proud of the four Olympic Gold Medals and four Women’s World Cup titles our teams have earned since 1991.”

The statement continued: “At the moment, the Women’s National Team players are paid differently because they specifically asked for, and negotiated, a completely different contract than the Men’s National Team, despite being offered, and rejecting, a similar pay-to-play agreement during the past negotiations. Their preference was a contract that provides significant additional benefits that the Men’s National Team does not have, including guaranteed annual salaries, medical and dental insurance, paid child-care assistance, paid pregnancy and parental leave, severance benefits, salary continuation during periods of injury, access to a retirement plan, multiple bonuses and more. As we look towards the future, our goal is to continue to pay fair and equitable compensation for all of our National Teams, while also being mindful of how and where we invest our overall financial resources so that we can fulfill one of the primary responsibilities to our membership, which is investing in the development of players, coaches and referees at all levels. We remain steadfast in our commitment to continue to lead and push for more investment in the women’s game overall, whether that’s towards increased programming, competitions, youth development opportunities, or prize money for tournaments.”

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