The U.S. women’s national soccer team last week lost to a formidable foe: the truth.
On Friday, a federal judge in California threw out the female soccer players’ claim that their employer, the U.S. Soccer Federation, paid them less than players on the men’s national team.
The women, who sought more than $66 million in damages from the USSF, claimed that their employer discriminated against them in violation of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
But Judge R. Gary Klausner of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California ruled that the USSF did not commit wage discrimination because it, in fact, paid the women’s team more than the men’s team on both a cumulative and per-game basis. (The Women’s National Team earned approximately $24 million overall and approximately $220,747 per game, while the Men’s National Team earned approximately $18 million overall and $212,639 per game. Moreover, the highest paid male players earned less per game than the four female class representatives in the lawsuit.)
Despite earning more in total compensation than their male counterparts, the female players argued that the collective bargaining agreement for the women’s team violated equal pay laws because it provided smaller bonuses for friendlies, World Cup-related matches, and other tournaments than the men’s CBA provided.
Looking at the CBAs in their totality, however, Judge Klausner noted that the women’s agreement was more generous than the men’s agreement in other ways, including provisions for guaranteed annual salaries and severance pay benefits. The women’s CBA guaranteed that members of the team would be paid regardless of whether they played, whereas the men’s CBA stated that players would only receive compensation for coming to camp and actually participating in a match.
Klausner further rejected the female players’ argument that they were discriminated against because they would have earned even more money under the men’s CBA.
Having rejected an offer to be paid under the same structure as the Men’s National Team, Klausner wrote, the women’s team “cannot now retroactively deem their CBA worse than the [men’s] CBA” by arguing that they would have made more under the structure that they themselves rejected.
Klausner ruled that the female players may proceed with their claim that the USSF discriminated against them by providing the male players with superior travel and hotel accommodations, medical support, training, and other support services. A trial on that claim is scheduled for June 16.
Although the court found no evidence of pay discrimination, former Vice President Joe Biden, nevertheless, tweeted that, the USSF must pay the female players equally or else he will take away their World Cup funding if elected president. The Wall Street Journal reports, however, that the U.S. government generally does not fund sporting events, although it is responsible for “safety and security,” including antiterrorism efforts.