For decades, players on the United States Women’s National Team have fought for equal pay for equal work. From trailblazers like the 1999 beloveds to 2019 World Cup winners, USWNT players have long fought to receive pay to match their worth.
American women have won their fight for equal pay.
Early Tuesday morning, the United States Soccer Federation announced that it had agreed to pay an eight-figure sum to past and present USWNT players and promised to equalize salaries between the men’s and women’s national teams as part of of the upcoming CBA, a historic moment in gender equality in American sports.
The USSF agreed to pay the players $24 million. While that’s less than half of the $66 million sought by players in a gender discrimination lawsuit in 2019, it’s a significant sum that might not have was necessary after a judge dismissed many of the USWNT’s complaints. Payment can be considered a public act my culpa of US Soccer, which is now led by President Cindy Parlow Cone, herself a former USWNT player. In exchange, the USWNT players agreed to release the USSF from all claims in the discrimination lawsuit, ending the equal pay battle.
“It was not an easy process to get to this point for sure,” Parlow Cone say it New York Times. “The most important thing here is that we move forward, and we move forward together.”
More important — at least in the long term — to the USWNT is the USSF’s commitment to finally pay the men’s and women’s national teams equally. This process could take months to finalize as the details of new collective agreements are worked out, but it is a stark contrast to past negotiations. Previously, US Soccer has repeatedly explained why it cannot pay women as much as men, ranging from the most reasonable – FIFA awards men’s teams exponentially more money – to the inexcusable – men are superior to women – The latter cost former USSF president Carlos Cordeiro his job.
The USWNT Players Association congratulated the players on their success, but noted that the process was not complete as the settlement is not official until the new CBA is signed.
USWNTPA Statement Regarding Settlement of Equal Pay Lawsuit Conditional on Ratification of New Collective Bargaining Agreement pic.twitter.com/e0fNlAqECP
Alex Morgan, Parlow Cone and Megan Rapinoe – with resplendent teal and pink hair – took to Good Morning America to talk about the historic moment on Tuesday.
“It’s a really amazing day,” Rapinoe told national television. “I think we’re going to look back on that day and say that’s when American football changed for the better. Obviously, we can’t go back and right the injustices that we faced, but the only justice that comes out of this is that we know something like this will never happen again, and we can move forward with making football the best sport we can in this country and setting up the next generation so much better than we’ve ever had. I’m so excited to have arrived here after such a long and arduous road.
Morgan said the deal was a win for all parties, a sentiment shared by Parlow Cone, who said the job was not done.
“We still have a lot of work to do to repair our relationship with the players,” Parlow Cone said. “But we are on the right track.”
Tuesday’s announcement ended a six-year fight over equal pay that began with the winners of the 2015 Women’s World Cup, but the battle began more than 20 years ago when the winners of the 1999 Women’s World Cup boycotted a tournament over salary complaints. The players nearly boycotted the 2016 Olympics after five players filed a pay discrimination complaint. In 2019, the entire team filed the gender equity lawsuit against the Federation, this settlement resolves.
For years, the fight for equal pay has been played out publicly, reaching a boiling point in 2019 at the Women’s World Cup, when Rapinoe and then-President Donald Trump faced off. on Twitter (remember when this guy was allowed on social media?). The dispute has become a major talking point in politics, with those on the left saying women deserve better treatment and those on the right saying they should shut up and dribble. Often the USWNT was a litmus test for social issues, with many (but not all) players using their platform to promote equality in all areas, not just pay.
Although this historic agreement is the first of its kind in the United States, the Federation is by no means the first to equalize salaries between the men’s and women’s national teams. Norway, champions of the 2022 Winter Olympics, became the first federation to pay its men and women equally after the men agreed to a pay cut in 2017. Norway is notorious for being deprived of one of the best players in the world, Ada Hegerberg, five years after leaving the national team on how women were treated. Other countries, including Denmark, the Netherlands, Australia and Brazil, have also equalized salaries between national teams.
None of this is to say the fight is over for female soccer players in the United States In addition to negotiating the CBA, the National Women’s Soccer League is reeling from a plethora of abuse scandals. This spring, US Soccer will hold an election for its new president.
Parlow Cone and Cordeiro are the two candidates vying to become the next USSF president. Either Parlow Cone will be elected for the first time – she was vice president when Cordeiro resigned in disgrace – or Cordeiro will win a second consecutive election. If Cordeiro, the man who oversaw the USSF’s legal argument that men are superior to women, wins, it could set women’s football back in motion yet again. But even Parlow Cone has been criticized for not doing more for the USWNT, though this settlement may change those feelings.
As Rapinoe noted, a large payout cannot undo past injustices, including decades of inferior treatment by the USSF. But it’s a step forward for women’s athletics in a country that doesn’t exactly have a great history when it comes to equality. It’s a day to celebrate, even if the work isn’t done yet.