After their win at the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France on Sunday, they’ll get a ticker tape parade in Manhattan on Wednesday, only the second women’s team ever to receive the honor (the first was the 2015 World Cup-winning team).
And though several members of the team have famously said they won’t be visiting the White House, they’ve already been invited to tour the House and Senate.
The 28 players on the women’s national team sued the federation in March, alleging that they are paid less than their counterparts on the US men’s national team even though they win more games and bring in more money. According to the suit, a top-tier women’s player could earn as little as 38 percent of what a top-tier men’s player makes in a year, a gap of $164,320.
“These athletes generate more revenue and garner higher TV ratings but get paid less simply because they are women,” said Molly Levinson, a spokesperson for the team in their lawsuit, in a statement to Vox.
“It is time for the Federation to correct this disparity once and for all.”
The two groups have agreed to mediation in an effort to resolve the suit out of court.
The New York Times editorial board on Monday called for the team to be paid fairly. Fans chanted “equal pay” from the stands following the team’s victory.
But the players are also facing a culture that still values men’s sports more than women’s. “There’s just a mentality out here for whatever reason that women just don’t deserve to be paid the same as men in professional sports,” Rich Nichols, the former executive director of the Women’s National Team Players Association, told Vox.
It was the first time in professional sports history that any athlete had filed such a discrimination complaint against a current employer, said Nichols, who now represents Solo.
“Despite the fact that these female and male players are called upon to perform the same job responsibilities on their teams and participate in international competitions for their single common employer,” the lawsuit states, “the female players have been consistently paid less money than their male counterparts.
And if they make the World Cup, a separate bonus structure applies.
If a women’s team won 20 non-tournament games in a year, the suit states, a top-tier player on that team would make a maximum of $99,000. But if a men’s team did the same, a top-tier men’s player would make an average of $263,320.
“The WNT earned more than three times less than the MNT while performing demonstrably better,” the suit states.
According to the Wall Street Journal, women’s games have brought in more money than men’s in recent years, thanks to the women’s team’s World Cup win in 2015. Between 2016 and 2018, the women’s games earned about $50.
8 million in revenue, compared with $49.9 million for the men’s games.
The difference is largely due to ticket sales, the paper reported.
This year’s women’s World Cup final also got better ratings in the US than last year’s men’s World Cup championship game — 10 percent of American households with TVs watched the game, compared with 8.
All this reflects one fact that no one disputes: The US women’s national soccer team is dominating on an international stage, and the men’s national soccer team is not. The US men have never won a World Cup and did not qualify for the tournament last year.
The women’s team has made some gains over the years. According to the Washington Post, a new collective bargaining agreement with US Soccer in 2017 closed the pay gap for non-tournament play somewhat: Under the new agreement, a women’s player would earn $28,333 less than a men’s player in a 20-game-winning scenario, compared with $164,320 less under the old contract.
US Soccer has taken steps to eliminate inequities in travel and playing conditions, according to the New York Times — for example, the women’s team has recently flown on chartered rather than commercial flights, a luxury once reserved for the men.
“We — all players, every player at this World Cup — put on the most incredible show that you could ever ask for,” team co-captain Megan Rapinoe said on Sunday. “We can’t do anything more, to impress more, to be better ambassadors, to take on more, to play better, to do anything.
It’s time to move that conversation forward to the next step.”
The federation has not yet responded to Vox’s request for comment.
And while the team has received widespread support from everyone from ordinary fans to US senators, its equal pay suit has also gotten some pushback, with Rich Lowry at the New York Post writing that the complaint “is almost entirely bunk” and arguing that since the women’s team is so much better than the men’s team, the difference in revenue should be even bigger.
The women’s fight is also reflective of a larger inequity: Across sports, female athletes struggle to get the same pay and attention that men get. The minimum starting salary for an NBA player, for example, is about eight times what the average WNBA player makes, according to the New York Times.
Female basketball players aren’t necessarily looking to make the same salaries men get, as Jessica Luther writes at HuffPost, but they do want a bigger chunk of the money their league makes — less than a quarter of WNBA revenue goes to players, while that figure is 50 percent for the NBA.
“Winning the World Cup adds pressure on US Soccer to meet the players’ demands,” wrote Caitlin Murray, author of a book on the team, at the Guardian. “With the world’s attention on the champions, the public began chanting for equal pay.
“We very much believe it is our responsibility,” she told the Times in March, “not only for our team and for future US players, but for players around the world — and frankly women all around the world — to feel like they have an ally in standing up for themselves, and fighting for what they believe in, and fighting for what they deserve and for what they feel like they have earned.
For years, opponents of equal pay for female athletes have claimed that women don’t play on the same level as men, that they’re not as exciting to watch, and that fans just don’t care about them. The women’s soccer team’s victory, and the outpouring of love for the players from all quarters of American society, has been a resounding rebuke to those claims.