Women's team suing US Soccer for gender-pay disparity

The US women's football team are the world champions but they are repeatedly earning less than their male counterparts.
The US women's football team are the world champions but they are repeatedly earning less than their male counterparts.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW YORK • They work just as hard as men for less pay and are told they need to generate as much money as men do if they want to get paid as much as men are paid.

When they say that's essentially impossible without more opportunities and promotion, they are told that opportunity and promotion will happen once they start producing more money.

This is the narrative at the heart of the gender discrimination lawsuit the United States women's national football team filed on Friday against the sport's national governing body, US Soccer.

In nearly every sport, gender disparities in pay and working conditions are rampant.

Coming just three months before the start of the Women's World Cup in France, the litigation immediately became the central plot for the event and highlighted an issue that has increasingly rankled the sports world.

The National Basketball Association's minimum salary of US$1.35 million (S$1.8 million) for a player with one year of experience is higher than the salary cap for an entire Women's NBA roster.

For all the gains that women have made in golf, the disparity in purses between the women of the LPGA Tour and the men of the PGA Tour continues to be striking.

Last year, the women's leading money winner, Thai Ariya Jutanugarn, won three events, including the US Women's Open, but her on-course earnings of US$2.74 million were surpassed by 33 players on the PGA Tour, including 33rd-ranked American Chesson Hadley, who did not record a victory on his way to US$2.76 million.

In tennis, women have pulled closer to pay equality than in any other major sport, with equal pay in the Grand Slams.

But a closer look at the scoreboard each year still shows women in the top 100 generally making only about 80 per cent of the prize money male players make, because of lower pay at other tournaments.

"Unless the origin of the sport is anchored in women, like gymnastics or field hockey, I don't think there's a culture that starts with the premise (that) women are going to be treated equally," said Donna Lopiano, a sports management consultant and former University of Texas athletics administrator.

According to the lawsuit against US Soccer, differing systems of compensation have led to the women repeatedly earning less than their male counterparts, even though the women's team are the world champions while the men failed to reach last year's World Cup in Russia.

And adidas have thrown its weight behind equitable treatment, pledging to pay players it sponsors from the winning Women's World Cup team equal performance bonuses as their male peers.

"We believe in inspiring and enabling the next generation of female athletes, creators and leaders through breaking barriers," the German sportswear giant tweeted the same day the lawsuit was filed.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2019, with the headline 'Women's team suing US Soccer for gender-pay disparity'. Print Edition | Subscribe