Monday 27 March 2017

United States women's team stars accuse federation of pay discrimination

American stars Alex Morgan and Hope Solo
American stars Alex Morgan and Hope Solo

Five leading players on the World Cup-winning United States women's national team have filed a pay discrimination federal complaint against US Soccer.

Carli Lloyd, who scored a hat-trick against Japan in last July's World Cup final, is among the complainants, joined by fellow co-captain Becky Sauerbrunn plus goalkeeper Hope Solo, midfielder Megan Rapinoe, and the best-paid player in the team, striker Alex Morgan.

The five players say they represent the entire women's team and want pay equality with the men's side, said a report in the New York Times.

Morgan has been reported to collect a seven-figure income, however much of that comes from endorsements, and the US women's team claim their basic earnings and bonuses from US Soccer should not be significantly short of what the men's team receive as is presently the case.

Lawyer Jeffrey Kessler is representing the group of players, and he said: "This is the strongest case of discrimination against women athletes in violation of law that I have ever seen."

In a statement from his office, Kessler said: "In early January, the Women's National Team Players Association submitted a reasonable proposal for a new CBA (collective bargaining agreement) that had equal pay for equal work as its guiding principle. US Soccer responded by suing the players in an effort to keep in place the discriminatory and unfair treatment they have endured for years."

The US women's side are also the reigning Olympic champions, while their men's counterparts have never gone beyond the World Cup quarter-finals or won an Olympic medal.

Lloyd told ABC's Today programme: "I think the timing is right. I think that we've proven our worth over the years. Just coming off of a World Cup win, the pay disparity between the men and women is just too large. And we want to continue to fight."

The complaint has been directed to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Solo said in a statement: "The numbers speak for themselves. We are the best in the world, have three World Cup championships, four Olympic championships, and the USMNT get paid more to just show up than we get paid to win major championships."

She added on Today: "We believe now the time is right because we believe it's a responsibility for women's sports, specifically women's soccer, to really do whatever it takes for equal pay and equal rights and to be treated with respect."

Kessler, from the Winston & Strawn law firm, has previously represented athletes including NFL star Tom Brady and Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius, winning the latter the right to race against able-bodied athletes which led to him running in the London 2012 Olympics.

Financial results published by US Soccer for the year to March 31 2015, a period which included a men's World Cup, show men's national team expenses at 31.1million US dollars (£21.7million) and women's national team expenses at 10.3million US dollars (£7.2million).

The results show the men's expenses for the previous year were also above twice the cost of running the women's team: £13million to £5.8million.

Lloyd said: "We have been quite patient over the years with the belief that the federation would do the right thing and compensate us fairly."

US Soccer said in a response on Thursday: "While we have not seen this complaint and can't comment on the specifics of it, we are disappointed about this action. We have been a world leader in women's soccer and are proud of the commitment we have made to building the women's game in the United States over the past 30 years."

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