Fresh off their World Cup victory, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team members are receiving a heroes’ welcome, complete with a New York City ticker-tape parade.
Fans were glued to the tournament from the team’s first game, an eye-popping 13-0 shutout against Thailand, riveted by team members’ joyful athleticism, unabashed self-assurance and integrity on and off the field. Nearly 15.6 million U.S. viewers tuned in to Sunday’s final match against the Netherlands. Here in Seattle, the victory was personal, with Reign FC’s Megan Rapinoe and Allie Long representing our region on the world stage.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke for many when he tweeted to the team, “You have inspired the entire country.”
The accolades are well deserved. But the Women’s National Team deserves more than congratulations and hearty handshakes: They deserve equal pay for equal work. The U.S. Soccer Federation must pay them what they are worth.
Despite the Women’s National Team’s No. 1 world ranking, World Cup winnings and recent pay increases, the team members take home smaller paychecks than their counterparts on the U.S. Men’s National Team. In March, they filed a lawsuit against the federation, arguing that even though their team’s excellent performance has generated “substantial revenue” and profits, the federation has neither compensated nor supported them equally to the men’s team.
Although the teams’ compensation policies are structured differently, a Washington Post Fact Checker analysis dug into the numbers this week using an apples-to-apples scenario: In a 20-game season, a player on the women’s team would earn $28,333 less than a male player — about 89 cents on the dollar. The Fact Checker concluded, “When the female players have appeared to make about the same or more money, they’ve had to turn in consistently outstanding performances on the world stage.”
The federation has attempted to explain the pay disparity by arguing that men’s and women’s teams are separate organizations, and that pay decisions are driven by revenue. Whether those arguments would prevail in U.S. District Court is an open question. But in the court of public opinion, especially this week, the soccer federation’s rationale seems a flimsy excuse.
The federation should reconsider its position and decide this week to stand for equitable pay, giving soccer fans, and all of us, yet another reason to celebrate.