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Megan Rapinoe & teammates win fight for equal pay between women’s & men’s soccer

Megan Rapinoe, Women's World Cup, lesbian soccer players
Megan Rapinoe of USA celebrates after scoring during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France group F match between USA and ThailandPhoto: Shutterstock

The U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) has agreed to pay players on its men’s and women’s teams equally, a historic moment as soccer becomes the first U.S. sport to do so.

The policy change comes after U.S. women’s national soccer team captain Megan Rapinoe and 27 of her teammates filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint for equal pay in 2016 and then a lawsuit in 2019 accusing the USSF of gender discrimination.

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“I feel a lot of pride for the girls who are going to see this growing up, and recognize their value rather than having to fight for it,” U.S. forward Margaret Purce said. “However, my dad always told me that you don’t get rewarded for doing what you’re supposed to do — and paying men and women equally is what you’re supposed to do.”

One of the biggest issues of contention on equal pay was the difference in World Cup prize money. The women’s U.S. team has won the World Cup four times, while the men’s U.S. team highest rank at the FIFA World Cup was in 1930 when the team got third place.

But despite performing better in their respective tournament, FIFA just pays more in prize money to men’s soccer teams. FIFA payments totaled $400 million for the 2018 men’s World Cup but a mere $30 million for the 2019 women’s World Cup.

So the unions for the U.S. teams agreed to let USSF pool prize money and divide it evenly among each team’s 23 players for the next several years, with USSF taking a 10% and then 20% cut.

The USSF also agreed to give the same game appearance fees to all players, including at smaller tournaments and exhibition games.

Men’s team players also gained from the arrangement. Child care had been covered for women’s team players for over two decades, and now players on the men’s team will get child care offered for training camps and matches.

The U.S. Women’s National Team settled their lawsuit with the USSF for $24 million this past February. The deal was contingent on a new collective bargaining agreement. The new agreement has to be approved by a judge before the litigation will be fully resolved.

“There’s no real justice in this other than this never happening again,” Rapinoe said about that settlement at the time. “With the settlement of the working conditions and this settlement which is contingent upon a CBA that will have equal pay going forward, there’s no other way to look at it than just a monumental win for women’s sports and women’s soccer, in particular.”

“Together with the USWNTPA, the USMNT players achieved what everyone said was impossible — an agreement that provides fair compensation to the USMNT players and equal pay and equal working conditions to the USWNT players,” said U.S. Men’s National Team lawyer Mark Levinstein. “The new federation leadership should get tremendous credit for working with the players to achieve these agreements.”

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