This week, the US Women’s National Soccer Team filed suit against the USA Soccer, claiming that they are not paid commensurately with their male counterparts. The USWNT, who is possibly the most popular and profitable female sports enterprise on the planet, has been locked in labor discord with USA Soccer for the better part of the last fifteen years, largely over pay issues.
There are really two issues to the suit filed by lead plaintiffs Alex Morgan (pictured above), Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd (she of the World Cup hat trick), Megan Rapinoe, and Becky Sauerbrunn, which are applicable to any workplace. First, are they similar situated to Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey, & Co. on the Men’s team? And second, if the answer is yes, do the profit centers of each particular team mandate that they be paid in accordance with them? Attorneys for the USWNT offer an emphatic yes to both questions, arguing that the team has been more profitable than the Men’s team for years.
The lessons are twofold and can be applied to any pay discrimination case. First, are the comparators true counterparts? I’m guessing that USA Soccer will argue no, and that the two teams compete in what are essentially two different sports that are no more alike than football is to baseball. Second, if they are deemed to be similarly situated, the conversation will turn to the revenue produced by each team. The USMNT knows this, which is why their Complaint provides a detailed account of the revenue numbers of both teams.
Gender pay disputes in professional sports are bubbling to the surface (See also: ATP remarks about women’s tennis). The most prominent female sports franchise in the world would like to take the first crack at the issue in the courtroom.
(Note: There are also ancillary issues in the case as to whether certain collective bargaining agreements made between the parties are valid. This is also an important piece of the case and will affect the claim of discriminatory pay.)