Women soccer players in the United States have reached a landmark agreement with the sport’s governing body to end a six-year legal battle over equal pay, a deal in which they are promised $24 million plus bonuses that match those of men.
The U.S. Soccer Federation and the women announced a deal on Tuesday that sees the players split $22 million, about a third of what they had sought in damages. The USSF also agreed to create a $2 million fund to benefit female players in their post-football careers and charitable efforts to grow the sport for women.
The USSF is committed to providing an equal rate of pay for women’s and men’s national teams – including World Cup bonuses – subject to collective agreements with unions that represent women and men separately.
“For our generation, knowing that we’re going to leave the game in an exponentially better place than when we found it is everything,” 36-year-old midfielder Megan Rapinoe said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. . “That’s what it’s about because, to be honest, there’s no justice in any of this if we don’t make sure it never happens again.”
The settlement was a victory for the players, which had fans chanting “Equal Pay!” when they won their second consecutive title in France in 2019. And it was a success for USSF President Cindy Parlow Cone, a former player who became head of the federation in March 2020.
Cone replaced Carlos Cordeiro, who resigned after the federation filed a legal case claiming women had fewer physical abilities and responsibilities than their male counterparts.
“It’s just one step towards rebuilding the relationship with the women’s team. I think it’s a great accomplishment and I’m excited about the future and working with them,” Cone said. Now we can focus on other things, above all, developing the game at all levels and increasing opportunities for girls and women.”
American women have won four World Cups since the program began in 1985, while the men haven’t reached a semifinal since 1930.
Five American stars led by Alex Morgan and Rapinoe began the challenge with a complaint to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in April 2016. The women sued three years later, seeking damages under the federal Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
The parties settled the working conditions portion in December 2020, dealing with issues such as charter flights, accommodations and playing surfaces. to reinstate the equal pay portion dismissed by a U.S. District Court.
“The settlement announced today is an important step in righting the many wrongs of the past,” the union for the women’s team said in a statement.
While an employment contract has yet to be concluded and ratified to replace the agreement which expires on March 31, the settlement was a huge step.
“It’s so gratifying to feel that we can begin to mend a relationship with US Soccer that has been broken for so many years due to the discrimination we have faced,” said Morgan, a 32-year-old striker. . “To finally get to this moment, it’s like we can almost breathe a sigh of relief.”
Players were able to fend off legal distractions to continue to succeed on the pitch.
“The overtime, the stress, the outside pressures and the discriminations that we face, I mean sometimes you think why the hell was I born a woman?” Morgan posed. “And then sometimes you think how amazing it is to be able to fight for something that you actually believe in and stand with these women. … There was something more than just coming in on the pitch and wanting to start or wanting to score goals or wanting to win or wanting to have glory.
The $22 million will be divided into individual player-proposed amounts, subject to district court approval.
Cone said the federation’s method of equalizing World Cup bonuses was yet to be determined. The federation has so far based its bounties on payments from FIFA, which has earmarked $400 million for the 2018 men’s tournament, including $38 million for the French champions, and $30 million for the 2019 women’s tournament, including $4. million for the American champion.
The American men played under the terms of a CBA which expired in December 2018.
Rapinoe criticized Cordeiro and his predecessor, Sunil Gulati, who led the USSF from 2006-18. Cordeiro seeks to take over Cone’s job when the USSF National Council meets March 5 to vote on a four-term term. years.
“What Cindy did was acknowledge the wrongdoing and apologize for the wrongdoing,” Rapinoe said. “It was entirely possible for Sunil not to discriminate and to pay us fairly and equitably. It was well within Carlos’ ability to do so, and they chose not to. … I think Cindy showed a lot of strength in that regard, and I think the other two, frankly, just showed a ton of weakness and really showed their true colors in allowing this to happen for so long.