The United States Women’s National Soccer Team has had an immeasurable amount of success in the past few years. They took home gold in the 2012 Summer Olympics and won the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, showcasing their athletic prowess worldwide. Their greatest success, however, may be off the field: serving as positive role models for young girls and women everywhere.
CNN reported that USWNT members filed a lawsuit demanding equal pay from the U.S. Soccer Federation on Friday April 1. This action is an important step in battling sexism in the male-dominated arena of professional sports. Young girls and women are able to watch the team as they battle opponents on the field and now as they battle workplace discrimination in the real world. This teaches them that they, too, deserve equal compensation for their achievements.
Co-captains midfielder Carli Lloyd and defender Becky Sauerbrunn, forward Alex Morgan, midfielder Megan Rapinoe and keeper Hope Solo and are suing for equal pay rights. CNN explained that the group insisted their complaint was on behalf of their entire team. They felt the need to take action because they earn “as little as between half and a quarter of their male counterparts.”
National Public Radio reported that the athletes will be represented by Jeffrey Kessler, an attorney who is no stranger to working with controversial sports cases—most notably representing New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the infamous “Deflategate” scandal. Kessler expressed his support for the women’s claim, noting that, “We believe we have a very strong case of blatant gender discrimination and that the [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] will agree.”
The Huffington Post reported figures to help paint a clearer picture of the gender discrimination that Kessler references. According to the article “Why Soccer Should Pay Women’s Players Equally, Regardless of Revenue,” in addition to individual salaries being unequal, the USWNT was paid $2 million for winning the 2015 Women’s World Cup while Germany—the winning men’s team in 2014—earned $35 million. This difference is grossly unfair and unacceptable.
The decision by the USWNT to refuse to settle for less than they deserve is an important one. As Huffington Post explains, these athletes “have proven there is an appetite for women’s soccer and that it’s certainly capable of generating global popularity.” There is no reason for this blatant inequality in payment.
These women have faced the inherently sexist nature of professional sports throughout their entire careers. Now, they are publicly opposing the sexist nature of their payment. The USWNT team is more than deserving of equal—if not more—compensation than the men’s team because of the success they have achieved.
Hopefully, this public outcry for equal pay will inspire and invoke change. Not only are members of the USWNT role models for their athletic success, but also because of their desire to fight for gender equality and women’s rights. Their actions demonstrate to young girls and women everywhere that knowing what you deserve—and asking for it—is OK. In fact, it is necessary.