US women’s soccer secures equal pay, $24 million after six-year legal battle - Breaking News

US women’s soccer secures equal pay, $24 million after six-year legal battle

Soccer has an equal playing field in the United States.

The U.S. women’s soccer team and U.S. Soccer Federation reached a historic agreement Tuesday to end their equal pay lawsuit after a six-year battle with the American sport’s governing body.

The women will split $22 million, according to a press release, which is approximately a third of what they had sought in damages. The USSF also will put an additional $2 million into an account to benefit the players in their post-soccer careers and charitable efforts aimed at growing the sport for women. Each woman may receive up to $50,000 from the latter fund.

In the agreement, the USSF committed to equal pay for the men’s and women’s national teams — including World Cup bonuses — pending a new collective bargaining agreement.

American men have been playing under the terms of a CBA that expired in December 2018.

The U.S. women’s national team has won four World Cups since the program’s start in 1985, while the men haven’t reached a semifinal since 1930.

Megan Rapinoe (right) and Alex Morgan at a USWNT press conference
Megan Rapinoe (right) and Alex Morgan at a USWNT press conference

U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe, who championed the years-long fight for equal pay, called the settlement a “huge win” on NBC’s “Today” on Tuesday.

“For our generation, knowing that we’re going to leave the game in an exponentially better place than when we found it is everything,” the 36-year-old Rapinoe said during a telephone interview with the Associated Press. “That’s what it’s all about because, to be honest, there is no justice in all of this if we don’t make sure it never happens again.”

Rapinoe’s partner, WNBA icon Sue Bird, said the historic settlement is also an inspiration for women outside of sports during an appearance Tuesday on “NBA Today.”

The USWNT Players Association said that while “much work remains to be done,”’ the settlement “is an important step in righting the many wrongs of the past.”

In 2016, Rapinoe was one of five American athletes to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming the women’s team should receive pay equal to that of the men’s team. Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, Rebecca Sauerbrunn and Hope Solo joined her in the fight for equal pay.

Alex Morgan against the Netherlands at the 2020 Olympics
Alex Morgan against the Netherlands at the 2020 Olympics

In 2019, 28 members of the USWNT filed a lawsuit against the USSF under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, seeking damages over accusations of “institutionalized gender discrimination” toward the team.

That same year, chants of “Equal pay” roared from the crowd at the 2019 Women’s World Cup final, in which the U.S. beat the Netherlands 2-0.

After the settlement was announced Tuesday, Lloyd tweeted, “Today marks a historical day for the current #USWNT players, the pioneers of women who came before us, the generations to come & women around the globe. It has been a long battle that required a lot of work from so many people. Grateful and thankful for everyone involved.”

Morgan reflected on the road to the team’s landmark day.

“It’s so gratifying to feel like we can start to mend a relationship with U.S. Soccer that has been severed for so many years because of the discrimination that we faced,” the 32-year-old forward told the AP. “To finally get to this moment feels like we can almost sigh a breath of relief.”

New USSF president Cindy Parlow Cone
New USSF president Cindy Parlow Cone

In a joint statement, the two sides said they “proudly stand together in a shared commitment to advancing equality in soccer,” and noted that “getting to this day has not been easy.”

Morgan explained that she and her teammates were fighting for something bigger than soccer.

“The additional hours and stress and outside pressures and discriminations we face, I mean sometimes you think why the hell was I born a female?” she told the AP. “And then sometimes you think how incredible it is to be able to fight for something that you actually believe in and stand alongside these women. … There was something more than stepping on the field and wanting to be a starter or wanting to score goals or wanting to win or wanting to have the glory.”