The U.S. women’s national soccer team is the reigning world champion heading into the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. They are fierce, driven, ambitious, and used to winning. So the U.S. Soccer Federation should be more than a little alarmed that the entire team has just filed a gender discrimination suit against it (on International Women’s Day, no less).
According to the New York Times, the 28 players on the team have accused their employer of “institutionalized gender discrimination,” a violation of both the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
While the suit includes the wage gap between the champion women’s team and not-quite-champion men’s team, where the women’s team earns less than their men’s team peers, despite providing superior results in the same job, this suit goes further than money. It alleges that U.S. Soccer treats the teams substantially differently, from support to training conditions to the coaching they receive to the medical treatment available to them–and even how the team is transported to and from games.
Players say they are expected to play and win more than the men’s team, but that they earn less for doing so. According to the lawsuit, which was filed in United States District Court in Los Angeles for the 2014 World Cup, the Men’s National Team received performance bonuses of nearly $5.4 million after losing in Round 16. For the 2015 Women’s World Cup, the U.S. women were given a mere $1.7 million after winning the entire tournament.
The suit, which includes Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd as plaintiffs (both World Cup champions and Olympic gold medalists), is seeking class action status. The idea is to bring in anyone who has played for U.S. Women’s Soccer since February 2015 in the hopes of getting back pay, damages, and a little justice.
The fact that the suit was filed in the months leading up to the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup (it kicks off in June) is probably not an accident. In 2016, the team threatened to strike a few months before the summer Olympics, because there’s no better time to strike than when the world is watching. Five players, including Lloyd and Morgan, ended up filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over pay discrimination.
That dispute ended in a 2017 collective bargaining agreement with U.S. Soccer, with players getting raises, but it didn’t go far enough to address the discrepancies. At that time, the team decided to compromise, but now they are ready for a fight.
The U.S. Soccer Federation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.