FIFA and USWNT: Equal play deserves equal pay

With three World Cup titles and four Olympic championships under its belt, the US Women’s Soccer National Team (USNWT) is one of the most successful soccer teams in FIFA history, and it continues to dominate the field going into the 2016 Olympics. Recently, however, five players (Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn and Alex Morgan) came forth to sue the US Soccer Federation through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for wage discrimination.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is a federal agency that enforces civil rights for workplace discrimination, including against female athletes. It is not just about wage discrimination; there has been a lack of facilities and accommodations for women’s teams, not just here in the US, but globally. FIFA is a different corrupt can of worms itself that does not pay women equally. There have been instances in which two female opposing teams have been hosted in the same hotel and forced to share fields for practice. Conversely, their male counterparts are usually housed in different hotels, with each team having its own practice field.

After the filing, the federation came out to support women’s soccer in the United States and across the globe, but it did not address specific issues of wage discrepancies. The budget expects women’s soccer to rake in more revenue than the men’s team. But according to USNWT’s financial budgeting, top men’s players earned almost twice as much as top women’s players from the federation during their respective World Cup years, despite the women’s victory in 2015 and the men’s early elimination in 2014.

FiveThirtyEight offer a little insight toward USWNT’s financial organization: “Typically, a club pays a player a salary, and a national federation compensates the player for caps and other appearances. For the USWNT, however, it’s the federation that pays the club salary; the women then draw a second salary for their national play — a departure from the US men. The National Women’s Soccer League is owned and operated by the federation.” Men made almost $200,000 more than their female counterparts, even though they played considerably less.

FIFA’s financial reporting was not much better. At the finale of the World Cup, each team goes home with prize money. Business Insider reports that although the US will be paid two million dollars, which is one million more than the last winner of the Women’s World Cup, the team is being paid six million dollars less than the losers of last year’s Men’s World Cup. The men were paid eight million dollars. So, the US Soccer Federation and FIFA are both paying women less for their time on the field.

Wage discrimination is a dominant form of gender inequality that spans the globe. If professional female soccer players who dedicate their lives to the game do not receive equal pay, then what does that say about broader economic disparities for women? In general, women’s games are deemed less interesting than men’s games. The women’s final World Cup game garnered more viewers than any men’s games in past years. If the women are putting in the work, then FIFA and the US Soccer Federation should be supporting and broadcasting women’s soccer.

In the sporting world, women’s opportunities for equal wages have increased since Title IX passed 40 years ago. Yet sports officials still struggle to compensate these genders equally. It has been argued that men deserve more money because they draw a bigger crowd and people really enjoy watching men’s soccer. But the women’s team won the World Cup, and it was estimated that 25.4 million viewers watched the game. It also produced 20 million more dollars in revenue than the men’s team did.

Instead of being celebrated, female athletes are slapped with the old-man mentality that they are lucky to be playing. In addition, the women’s team does a victory tour for little pay, playing on dangerous artificial turf, while the men’s team plays on natural grass.

Timing could not be better for the lawsuit because this summer, the 2016 Olympics will feature the US Women’s team and will award them equal pay. Across the world, women are demanding equal pay and equal opportunities.

It is a call to action for feminists. Recently, I have seen my male colleagues argue against feminism on the basis that it places women in charge. That is not the case; feminism gives women an opportunity to pursue happiness, similar to men. It is a challenge to the patriarchy to dismantle gender stereotypes and sexism. The fact that the USWNT has to file a lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation speaks volumes about sexism in America, particularly in the supposedly more equal federation. The US women’s soccer team and women across the world deserve equal pay for their equal play.