In July 2015, the US Women’s Soccer Team made history when they defeated Japan and won a third World Cup title in front of 53,300 spectators in Vancouver, Canada. This game, which was seen on TV by more than 25 million viewers, became the most-watched soccer match in United States television history—men’s or women’s.
Ever since their record-setting World Cup victory, the US Women’s National Team (USWNT) has been fighting for US Soccer to acquire the same playing conditions, travel arrangements, and financial compensation as the US Men’s National Team (USMNT).
The effort stretches beyond just the field. For example, USWNT player Becky Sauerbrunn , explains another cause for the movement: “Women shouldn’t go into negotiations thinking that they should just be happy with what’s given to them. If you feel like you’re owed more, then fight for it.”. According to the players, the quest for equal pay includes women who play professional soccer in other countries as well as women in the workplace.
So what exactly spurred this huge campaign?
The campaign first became vocal at the end of March 2015 when USWNT players Carli Lloyd, Becky Sauerbrunn, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, and Hope Solo went public about these issues. The players filed a federal complaint accusing U.S. Soccer of wage discrimination. According to the complaint, the USWNT earns roughly ¼ less than the USMNT, despite dramatically outperforming the men and despite producing nearly $20 million more in revenue for U.S. Soccer.
However, the discrimination extends beyond salary. When the US Men’s National Team heads to a game, they fly business class and stay at luxury hotels that cost between $250 and $1,000 for a room. By contrast, when the US Women’s national team heads to a game, they fly coach and stay at a significantly less expensive hotel in which the nicest room costs about the same as the cheapest room at the men’s hotel.
Despite all this, Sunil Gulati– the president of the US Soccer Federation–argues that the revenue generated by the USWNT from last year was a fairly big anomaly, and that, the final rounds of the Women’s World Cup aside, the men’s team consistently draws bigger audiences in stadiums and on television. Moreover, Gulati states that the women’s financial figures are cherry-picked and taken out of context.
Yet, Gulati’s comments have only made the women fight harder and the team has made it clear that women’s soccer is done playing nice.
Recently, in their game against South Africa, they kicked the fight for equality up a notch when they sported “#EqualPlayEqualPay” t-shirts and temporary tattoos. Due to huge demand, the team is now selling these t-shirts and using the money to support the cause.
It is safe to say that these women will not back down until they achieve their goal. As the USWNT has proven on the field, these ladies do not take defeat. “We’re sick of being treated like second-class citizens. It wears on you after a while. And we are done with it,” Carli Lloyd said.
Whether they win this fight is yet to be determined, and there will probably be many arguments and counterarguments made. However, one thing is clear and without dispute: the men have yet to win a World Cup, while the women are the reigning World Champions.
By: Zoe Chandra