Mansplaining for Soccer Pay Gap

U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulat, left, and attorney Russell Sauer

By Eve Tahmincioglu

The fact that members of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team get pregnancy leave is being used as partial justification for pay inequality.

Last week, five high-profile players of the U.S. Women’s National Team filed a federal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) accusing the U.S. Soccer Federation of wage discrimination.

The complaint was filed by female players who brought home a World Cup win last year, including Carli Lloyd, Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn. They claim they are paid thousands less than their male counterparts. (A graphic in the New York Times paints a clear picture of the wage gap.)

Yearly pay for women who win all 20 games during a season is $99,000, compared to $263,320 for male players. The gap is narrower for losers $72,000 for women and $100,000 for men.

“I think that we’ve proven our worth,” said Lloyd, who was named FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year for 2015, on NBC’s Today Show last week. And Solo told the Times that the men’s players “get paid more to just show up than we get paid to win major championships.”

The Federation had a lot of reasons for the disparity in pay.

The Federation’s President Sunil Gulati and its attorney, Russell Sauer, told ESPN they plan on trying to work with the women players who filed the suit but offered a host of excuses for why the disparity, which no one is disputing, exists:

  • The revenues associated with the U.S. Men’s National Team are nearly twice those of the women’s.
  • Revenues accrue based on international competitions.
  • Part of it is based on incentives and the expected performance of the teams.
  • The women players’ union opted in 2005 for a pay structure that stressed guaranteed salary and benefits and not a pay to play structure.

Sauer pointed out that the women receive 50 percent of their pay if they go out on pregnancy leave, and the female players also get health benefits, including vision and dental insurance.

“When someone negotiates for guarantees of downside protection, almost necessarily, the opportunity for upside gets squeezed down a little bit,” contended Sauer.

Unfortunately, women players are being squeezed on the upside despite the fact that they helped the Federation from going into the red for fiscal year 2016, and as a result of their success, ESPN reported, the Federation is now projecting $17.7 million in profit.

“This disparity continues in 2017,” ESPN stated, “when the women’s team is expected to net $5 million in profit, whereas the men’s team will be $1 million in the red. The women make less in terms of travel and per diems.”

The pay disparity is a far cry from the public relations campaign the Federation was pushing in 2000 when they announced a “historic contract” with the U.S. Women’s National Team.

In a press release the Federation‘s then president said: “With this agreement we have raised the level again by continuing to assure fair compensation between our women’s and men’s program, especially after everything this team has accomplished.”

By the way, they also touted the decision to offer paid maternity leave as “revolutionary.”Alas, who knew it would come with a hefty price

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