U.S. Women To Resume 'Equal Pay For Equal Play' Fight After Winning 4th World Cup

Jul 8, 2019
Originally published on July 9, 2019 5:24 am
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The celebration for the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team shifts this week from France to New York City. On Wednesday, the World Cup champs will get a ticker-tape parade and keys to the city. Then the players will turn their focus back to a more serious matter. In a lawsuit filed before the tournament, they demanded equal pay to their male counterparts. As NPR's Tom Goldman reports, many U.S. women's team supporters say a fourth World Cup title makes the case even stronger.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: In the stadium in Lyon yesterday, it didn't take long for the pivot from joy to indignation. As U.S. players hugged and celebrated their hard-earned victory over a tough Netherlands team, the chants bubbled up from the stands.

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UNIDENTIFIED SOCCER FANS: (Chanting) Equal pay, equal pay, equal pay.

GOLDMAN: And then the booing...

(BOOING)

GOLDMAN: ...For members of FIFA, soccer's international governing body, which reportedly will pay the U.S. women a $4 million bonus, compared to the 38 million it paid to last year's men's World Cup winners.

Megan Rapinoe, the outspoken U.S. winger, won the Golden Ball award given to the tournament's most valuable player. But after the match, she assumed her other role as outspoken plaintiff in the class-action suit filed against the U.S. Soccer Federation in March. The suit was brought by U.S. players, but Rapinoe says everyone at this World Cup helped push the fight forward.

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MEGAN RAPINOE: Every player at this World Cup put on the most incredible show that you could ever ask for, and 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.

GOLDMAN: The next step is mediation, as the U.S. women and their federation try to resolve issues of equal pay and better working conditions. On the surface, resolution seems easy; pay the U.S. women what the U.S. men make. Look at the women's success versus the men's lack thereof. The men didn't even qualify for their last World Cup. Look at what the teams make for their federation. The Wall Street Journal reports in the last three years, U.S. women's games generated more revenue than the U.S. men.

Still, sports law expert Michael McCann says resolving the issues is tricky.

MICHAEL MCCANN: It's a complex topic. It's not as straightforward as I think it's depicted.

GOLDMAN: McCann is a law professor at the University of New Hampshire. He says there's debate about how revenue is attributed to the men's and women's teams. There's debate about how sponsorships are awarded. The two teams have different pay structures. The men are paid when they play. The women have guaranteed pay. And McCann wonders what happens if the women are successful in their efforts.

MCCANN: Here, this is an entire group of players bringing in a case over pay. That complicates it in the sense that - how would any increases be distributed?

GOLDMAN: McCann says the lawsuit is suspended during mediation. But if talks fail, the women will resume litigation. Emily Martin says women everywhere in this country should pay attention to this case over pay inequality. Martin is with the National Women's Law Center. She says when you compare women and men who work full time, women are paid about 80 cents for every dollar paid to men.

EMILY MARTIN: I do think it will inspire individual women to come forward and say, pay me what you owe me. I also think that when you see this kind of high-profile excellence fighting for equal pay, that that is an important prompt for lawmakers to do the same.

GOLDMAN: Martin adds, considering the U.S. women's sustained excellence, maybe pay equality is aiming too low and it's time to ask for better pay.

Tom Goldman, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.