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Women’s World Cup winners: Four star performances deserve four star pay

L.A. Times Today airs Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Spectrum News 1.

This month, the United States Senior Women’s National Soccer Team defeated the Netherlands 2-0 winning the FIFA World’s Soccer Cup — an extraordinary victory for the U.S. The team was handed new jerseys with a gold star symbolizing their fourth world cup win (1991, 1999, 2015, and 2019) and their first consecutive world cup crown. As the America flag was waived during the victory parade in New York City it was a time of celebration, jubilation and national pride.

The world cup also served as a call to action as the crowd of 58,000 in Lyon, France, cheered “USA” and also chanted “equal pay” publicly highlighting the gap in pay between the U.S. men’s and women’s soccer teams. U.S. soccer goalie Megan Rapinoe and others cited inequities between the two programs including player pay, prize money and game schedules. According to major news sources, there is a significant gap between women’s and men’s pay and total prize money.

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Each team plays 20 games. But the women are paid $4,950 per game, while the men are paid $13,166 per game — a difference of $8,216 per game, which is significant. For the World Cup win the pay difference is stark. There is a $370 million difference in total prize money. The 2019 world women’s cup prize money was $30 million compared to the 2018 world men’s team cup prize money of $400 million. The pay gap carried over into pay for each player. Each player on the men’s World Cup team earned $1.1 million compared to $250,000 for each player on the women’s team; a difference of $850,000. The men were paid over four times the amount as the women. Four Star Performance by the U.S. Senior Women’s National Soccer Team earns less than 23 cents on the dollar compared to the men’s team. Is this fair?

These are highly trained, world class athletes who devote their lives to the sport. Is this the message the U.S. wants to send the rest of the world: our star female athletes are worth one quarter of what the men are worth? These athletes symbolize the American dream, American values and American power. Shouldn’t the U.S. set the standard for gender equality? Shouldn’t our women soccer players, who’ve won four World Cups, be paid based on performance?

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The U.S. Senior Women’s National Soccer Team believes it deserves equal pay. In 2016, five team members filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In March of this year, 28 team members filed a class action lawsuit in California against the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) alleging violation of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended. The lawsuit alleges gender discrimination and unequal pay, specifically that the USSF discriminates by “paying them less than members of the [men’s national team] for substantially equal work and by denying them at least equal playing, training, and travel conditions; equal promotion of their fames; equal support and development for their games; and other terms and conditions of employment equal to the” men’s team. The plaintiffs seek damages in the form of back pay and equal treatment.

The USSF publicly countered that pay differences between the women and men were the result of aggregate revenue generated by each team, not gender. However, the Wall Street Journal last month published an article showing that the women’s team generated $50.8 million compared to $49.9 million by the men’s team from 2015-2018. USSF agreed to mediation with the women’s soccer team shortly thereafter.

It is highly likely given the women’s outstanding performance in the 2019 World Cup the women will receive a significant pay raise. The women’s national team pay should not be comparable to the men’s team; based on performance it should exceed it. The women earned it.

America needs to stay focused ensure the USSF does right by our women athletes by enforcing the Equal Pay Act. Four-star performances deserve four-star pay.

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Lorenda Naylor (lnaylor@ubalt.edu) is an associate professor at the University of Baltimore and director of its Policy, Politics and International Affairs Program.

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