US women's team files wage-discrimination action vs. US Soccer

PHOTO:Becky Sauerbrunn, Hope Solo, and Carli Lloyd of U.S. womens soccer team before a match against Costa Rica, Feb. 10, 2016, in Frisco, Texas.PlayRonald Martinez/Getty Images
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Five members of the US women's national soccer team -- including Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan -- have filed on behalf of the entire team a wage-discrimination action against the US Soccer Federation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The filing, citing figures from the USSF's 2015 financial report, says that despite the women's team generating nearly $20 million more revenue last year than the US men's team, the women are paid almost four times less.

"Recently, it has become clear that the Federation has no intention of providing us equal pay for equal work," said Megan Rapinoe in a press release, after also attaching her name to the filing along with Becky Sauerbrunn.

The action was filed by the law firm of Winston & Strawn and its co-chairman Jeffrey Kessler, who has represented numerous players' unions and athletes -- including Tom Brady and Ray Rice -- in disputes with professional leagues and organizations.

"In early January, the Women's National Team Players Association submitted a reasonable proposal for a new CBA that had equal pay for equal work as its guiding principal," said Kessler. "US Soccer responded by suing the players in an effort to keep in place the discriminatory and unfair treatment they have endured for years."

Solo, appearing with Lloyd on NBC's "Today" on Thursday, said "not much has changed" during her time on the team.

"I've been on this team for a decade and a half, and I've been through numerous CBA negotiations, and honestly, not much has changed," Solo said. "We continue to be told we should be grateful just to have the opportunity to play professional soccer, to get paid for doing it.

"In this day and age, it's about equality. It's about equal rights. It's about equal pay. We're pushing for that. We believe now the time is right because we believe it's our responsibility for women's sports and specifically for women's soccer to do whatever it takes to push for equal pay and equal rights. And to be treated with respect."

US Soccer issued a statement Thursday, saying it is "disappointed" that the action was taken.

"We understand the Women's National Team Players Association is filing a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against U.S. Soccer," the USSF statement said. "While we have not seen this complaint and can't comment on the specifics of it, we are disappointed about this action. We have been a world leader in women's soccer and are proud of the commitment we have made to building the women's game in the United States over the past 30 years."

US Soccer, fearing that the women's team would strike ahead of this year's Olympics, last month said it "reluctantly" filed suit in a Chicago federal court to "confirm the existence" of a collective bargaining agreement with the union representing the US women's team.

"I think the timing is right," Lloyd told NBC's "Today" on Thursday. "I think we've proven our worth over the years. Just coming off a World Cup win, the pay disparity between the men and women is just too large. We want to continue to fight. The generation of players before us fought. And now it's our job to keep on fighting."

Among the numbers cited in the EEOC filing are that the women would earn $99,000 each if they won 20 friendlies, the minimum number they are required to play in a year. But the men would likely earn $263,320 each for the same feat, and would get $100,000 even if they lost all 20 games. Additionally, the women get paid nothing for playing more than 20 games, while the men get between $5,000 and $17,625 for each game played beyond 20.

"Every single day we sacrifice just as much as the men. We work just as much," Morgan told NBC's "Today" on Thursday. "We endure just as much physically and emotionally. Our fans really do appreciate us every day for that. We saw that with the high of last summer. We're really asking, and demanding now, that our federation, and our employer really, step up and appreciate us as well."

Also greatly disparate, according to the figures, is the pay for playing in the World Cup. The US women received a team total of $2 million when it won the World Cup last year in Canada. Yet when the US men played in the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, the team earned a total of $9 million despite going just 1-2-1 and being knocked out in the Round of 16.

"We are the best in the world, have three World Cup Championships, four Olympic Championships, and the (men) get paid more to just show up than we get paid to win major championships," Solo said.

Morgan added that the players are seeking more than just fair compensation.

"We want to play in top-notch, grass-only facilities like the US Men's National Team," Morgan said. "We want to have equitable and comfortable travel accommodations and we simply want equal treatment."

The EEOC will conduct an investigation and determine if its findings warrant compensation to the US women's team.