US soccer player and World Cup champion Megan Rapinoe told Congress Wednesday, on what has come to be known as Equal Pay Day, that she and her teammates are paid less than their male counterparts because they are women.
Rapinoe told Congress, “[D]espite [the success of the women’s national soccer team], we are still paid less than men — for each trophy, each win, each tie, each time we play. Less. And if that can happen to us, to me, with the brightest lights shining on us – it can, and it does, happen to every person who is marginalized by gender.”
Is Rapinoe correct? Are the female players on the U.S. National Soccer Team the victims of sex discrimination?
Mostly false or misleading. Significant errors or omissions. Mostly make believe.
A federal court in California ruled last year that the United States Soccer Federation’s pay structure for the Men’s and Women’s National Teams is not discriminatory. Rapinoe and her teammates had sued the federation for alleged violations of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, seeking more than $66 million in damages from the USSF.
Judge R. Gary Klausner of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California held that the USSF did not commit wage discrimination, and dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims of pay discrimination under both statutes, because USSF, 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.
Although the judge rejected the women’s claims of pay discrimination, he said that the team could proceed with their claim of discriminatory working conditions (allegations that the USSF violated Title VII providing the male players with superior travel and hotel accommodations, medical support, training, and other support services.)
Late last year, the women and USSF settled the working conditions portion of the case. The settlement agreement calls for charter flights, hotel accommodations, venue selection and professional staff support equitable to that of the men’s national team. Plaintiffs plan to appeal the court’s wage discrimination ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.