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Now that mediation with federation has failed, women’s soccer team ponders next move

USA women's national team

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Since the World Cup began earlier this summer, a constant chorus has rhapsodized about how inequitable the situation has become concerning equal pay for women’s and men’s national team players.

In fact, as the United States motored along to the championship, the battle cry of “Equal Pay” became a favorite of the team’s fans at its matches.

Now here we are almost at Labor Day and nothing substantive has been decided to remedy the situation. And since that’s the case, the women’s program is considering whether it needs to go to court to fight for what it claims is right.

At the core of all this is how the sides are interpreting the amount of revenue the women’s team has and is potentially capable of earning. The women believe it’s substantial enough to authorize a pay increase. The U.S. Soccer Federation isn’t quite sure.

On Wednesday in New York, mediation between U.S. Soccer and the women’s team reached an impasse over the gender inequity suit originally filed in March by the women’s national team.

With that came a stream of partisan frustration.

“We entered this week’s mediation with representatives of USSF full of hope. Today we must conclude these meetings sorely disappointed in the Federation’s determination to perpetuate fundamentally discriminatory workplace conditions and behavior,” said the players.

Said the Federation: “We have said numerous times that our goal is to find a resolution, and during mediation, we had hoped we would be able to address the issues in a respectful manner and reach an agreement. Unfortunately, instead of allowing mediation to proceed in a considerate manner, plaintiffs’ counsel took an aggressive and ultimately unproductive approach that follows months of presenting misleading information to the public in an effort to perpetuate confusion.”

On Thursday, women’s national team co-captain Megan Rapinoe and her teammate, Christen Press, appeared on “Good Morning America” and “Today” to discuss what the next step will be.

It was clear from listening to them that neither wants the case to go court, but neither is willing to back off until the Federation at least agrees to close the salary gap.

“We’re always open to hearing that conversation if they’re ready to have it,” Rapinoe said on “Today.” “That’s the only federation we can play for. We’re the only team that they have. … So we’re sort of tethered together in that way. But at any point, if they want to have a serious conversation and are willing to not only talk about paying us equally and valuing us in that way, but actually doing it and showing us that they’ll do it, our ears are always open.

USA World Cup

JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)

“I don’t think anybody wants to go to litigation. But with that said, we’re very confident in our case.”

The women’s team believes it is proceeding with a level head. It sent a letter to the Federation when mediation began on Monday expressing confidence that a solution could be found. But so far, that hasn’t been the case.

“I think, unfortunately, it was just the concept of paying us equally,” said Press. “We never even got past that. We were very hopeful in our discussions with them that they were going to take our proposals and our positions seriously, which is simply that every game that we play, we get compensated the same way a man would for playing or winning that game. And it broke down right there.”

The Federation released its own letter July 29 and here’s where the question of language and interpretation gets interesting. Its position is that the women have been compensated in a fair, if not equal way.

In fact, it believes it has paid the women more than the men. U.S. Soccer said its internal study showed it paid females $34.1 million in salaries and game bonuses in 2010-18, while the men were paid $26.4 million in the same period.

Critics of the Federation claim it unfairly incorporated salaries paid to players in the women’s pro league, so it does not accurately reflect what the national team was compensated.

“We always know there is more we can do,” U.S. Soccer said in its statement after mediation broke down. “We value our players and have continually shown that, by providing them with compensation and support that exceeds any other women’s team in the world.”

Unfortunately, there is nothing in place right now for continued discussion. And the case might be headed to federal court right about the same time the team is preparing for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

“I think that we’ve shown that we’re able to do a lot of work off the field and still have successful results,” said Press. “This has been going on – this fight actually has been going on forever. I think being part of being on the women’s national team means that you’re taking part in this torch-carrying for women. And we take a lot of pride in that, and it gives us a great purpose.”

 

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