The players of the U.S. Women’s National Team filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation on Friday. The 28 players named in the suit, including Reign FC’s Megan Rapinoe and Allie Long, have accused the USSF of engaging in “institutionalized gender discrimination” affecting the players’ pay, how often the team played, their methods of travel and the quality of medical treatment they received compared to the Men’s National Team players.
The lawsuit comes on the heels of the wage discrimination complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by Rapinoe and four other players in 2016.
“Obviously, this is a very important day and to be able to do it on International Women’s Day is very special for us,” Rapinoe said on Friday after first day training with Reign FC this season. “This is a fight, frankly, that this team has been in for decades but this current team with our E.E.O.C. battle since 2016. We felt for a variety of reasons that this was the right time to take this step to put us in the best position to be successful and put us in the strongest position moving forward. Of course, we wish it didn’t have to come to this, but we feel very confident and stand by our claims and feel very united as a team and feel good about the filing today.”
The New York Times obtained a copy of the lawsuit which claims that “the U.S.S.F. has no legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for this gross disparity in pay, nor can it be explained away by any bona fide seniority, merit or incentive system or any other factor other than sex.”
The players received permission from the E.E.O.C. to file the suit in February and chose to do so after what they felt was a lack of progress.
Rapinoe hopes that the suit will serve as the next great landmark in the players’ campaign for equal treatment by the federation.
“It’s certainly going to be a hallmark push for this generation,” Rapinoe said. “I would love to say that we’ll get it to a place that the players after us don’t have to deal with this, but I don’t think that we’re there yet. I’m sure they’ll have to go through their battles, but hopefully we leave them with as much of the path cleared as possible to put them in the best possible position that we can. I think we feel a responsibility to do that. Not only for the next generation but knowing what others have done before us to put us in a position to do what we’re doing now. It feels very much in keeping with the legacy of the team and the thread that’s always been there.”
The U.S. National Soccer Team Players Association, which represents players for the Men’s National Team, issued the following statement in the wake of the announcement of the lawsuit Friday.
“The United States National Soccer Team Players Association fully supports the efforts of the U.S. Women’s National Team Players to achieve equal pay. Specifically, we are committed to the concept of a revenue-sharing model to address the U.S. Soccer Federation’s “market realities” and find a way towards fair compensation. An equal division of revenue attributable to the MNT and WNT programs is our primary pursuit as we engage with the U.S. Soccer Federation in collective bargaining. Our collective bargaining agreement expired at the end of 2018 and we have already raised an equal division of attributable revenue. We wait on US Soccer to respond to both players associations with a way to move forward with fair and equal compensation for all U.S. Soccer players.”
Rapinoe feels confident of the players’ chances, saying that the lawsuit will be an important moment in the history of soccer in the United States.
“In general, I feel very proud of what this team has been able to do and the way we’ve come together. We’ve taken responsibility and taken pride in trying to leave the game a better place than we found it. This is just one more step in that. It’s a big step, it’s kind of a monumental step on a really amazing day. I am confident we can get the outcome that we want and deserve.”