Five players from the U.S. women’s national soccer team — Carli Lloyd, Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn — filed a complaint this week with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging that that U.S. Soccer is violating federal law by paying them less than male players.
Carrie LeCrom, Ph.D., executive director of the Center for Sport Leadership in the School of Education at Virginia Commonwealth University, researches sport as a vehicle for social change, global sport, and quantitative measures of success in sport, and was an Athletic and Academic All-American soccer player on a team that advanced to the Elite Eight of the 2001 Division III NCAA Women’s Soccer National Championship.
The players on the U.S. women’s national soccer team, LeCrom said, deserve equal pay and have a strong argument in their favor.
“Historically, the wage inequalities in professional sport have been vast, but somewhat justified given that in nearly every professional sport in the U.S., men’s sports bring in astronomically higher amounts of revenue due to media rights, popularity, fan engagement, among other things. For soccer at the national team level, however, this is not necessarily the case. The women’s team is as popular or more so than the men’s team, and the success on the field as well as TV viewership, merchandise purchasing, etc., all support this. So, outside of the standard argument that they deserve equal pay for equal play, I think that the U.S. national women’s soccer team has an even stronger leg to stand on.”
“I think that you can basically make the numbers show what you want them to show – so both the men’s and women’s sides could claim that they are the biggest revenue producers, depending on what numbers you pull. There is no doubt that over the last year, the women have had the most success (on the field and in terms of revenue), but it was also a women’s World Cup year. It’s difficult to base an argument on just one year of data, but I’m sure the women filing their lawsuit are smart enough to consider this. Looking at the data over the last decade, I’m not sure whether the numbers would fall in their favor or not. On the flip side, I don’t know the specifics of the collective bargaining agreement the women’s team operates under, and I do understand that it is quite different from the men’s CBA. This is what the lawsuit is ultimately going to come down to, in my opinion.”
“As a former women’s soccer player, I have many of my own opinions on this as well in terms of the success and popularity of women’s soccer in the U.S., much of which is due to the 1999 world champion team, and now of course the most recent success of the women’s team. So, yes, they deserve it and I think they are making a very strong case for it. The result of this lawsuit will set the tone for a lot of future claims when it comes to pay equity, so it will be very interesting to watch.”