$24M settlement and equal pay for men and women: Is US Soccer Federation right?
- On February 22, 2022, the US Women’s National Soccer team announced their win in a $24 million equal pay settlement against the US Soccer Federation. The players will receive $22 million in back pay and $2 million into a fund for “post-career goals and charitable efforts.” The settlement will not be finalized until the court approves, which could take place in March.
- The legal fight officially began in April 2016, when five top women’s players filed a wage discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In their filing, the players said they were being shortchanged on everything from bonuses to appearance fees and meal money.
- Over ten years, the women's team generated $101.3 million in 238 games versus $185.7 million generated by the men's team over the same timeframe and 191 games.
- The women's team made $900,000 more revenue than the men's team from fiscal year 2016 to 2018.
- The United States Women's National Team is considered the “best women’s soccer team in the world” with four FIFA Women’s World Cups, the last in 2019, and four Olympic women’s gold medals.
From 2016 to 2018, the women's soccer team generated more revenue than the men's team. Although that was the case, the men's team was still being paid at a higher rate per game than the women. Although the women's team garnered much more attention, contractual obligations set a limit to their salaries regardless of their stellar performance.
The women's world cup match generated more views from Americans than the men's final in 2018. Americans are more invested in women's soccer because they hold a sense of pride in the fact that their fellow citizens are among the best players in the world, something the men's team cannot say. The US vs. England women's semifinal was the most-watched television program of the year for England.
Nike's highest-selling soccer jersey overall in 2019 was the women's jersey, which sold higher than the men's in the United States. The team is reaching a level of popularity that does not match their set pay range. As women's soccer continues to grow and permeate throughout the country, the players' value will continue to increase and should not be limited in any way.
While the settlement does not guarantee equal pay in the future, it highlights how female soccer players are not afraid to fight against unfair salaries, which may lead to salary amendments in the future. The US women's soccer team serves as a pioneer at the forefront of the fight for equal pay among athletes.
Women soccer players may have earned the same pay as men, but that does not mean it is deserved. What many fail to realize is that professional sports payment differs between the men and women's teams as it all boils down to entertainment. The discrepancy has nothing to do with gender. Women actors in Hollywood get better pay than their male colleagues when they are entertaining, popular, and able to generate revenue. But when it comes to soccer, Women's sports are not as entertaining or more popular than men's sports. Not many people can name any great female soccer players around the globe, apart from Megan Rapinoe who has mainly propelled to fame through her activism than her soccer playing skills.
Secondly, women's competition at the local and national levels is limited, and there is a significant difference in the quality of women players from North America versus Africa or Asia—and many sports fans don't tune in. Initially, the women negotiated and agreed to their contract based on incentive-based bonuses, but the men chose a more performance-based contract. Then this discrepancy in talent in women's soccer has become a problem for them.
Overall, men's teams are usually inviting, talented and most have a great history—which is non-existent in women's soccer. What generates revenue is popularity and skill but at every level in women's soccer, the stadiums are rarely full. In 2018, the men's world cup generated $6 billion in revenue, with France the winner taking home $38 million; in the women's world cup in 2019, the revenue was $131 million, and the winner took home $4 million. Today we live in a society where everyone wants gender equality, but this leads to the dismantling of meritocracy, where everyone essentially 'gets a trophy,' whether it's earned or not.