The U.S. women’s national team soccer players are seeking more than $66 million in damages as part of their ongoing gender discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF), The Associated Press reported.
The players sued the federation in March 2019 over allegations of institutionalized discrimination based on compensation differences between the men's and women’s teams. The trial is scheduled to begin May 5.
The damages were included in a Thursday night filing in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
The separate collective bargaining agreements of the men's and women’s teams were also made public with the filing. The agreements showed a disparity in bonuses between men and women players, but they also demonstrated different pay structures for the teams, the AP reported.
Multiple pretrial depositions were also included in the documents filed Thursday. Soccer star Megan Rapinoe, a player on the women’s national team, said in her Jan. 16 deposition that Russell Sawyer, an attorney for the USSF, stated during a June 2016 bargaining session that “market realities are such that the women do not deserve to be paid equally to the men,” the AP reported.
Former USSF President Sunil Gulati said during a Dec. 17 deposition that “There is an absolute difference, which not everyone seemed to agree to, but do I think that it’s less attractive or less entertaining? I’m not saying that. Or relative quality, I’m not saying that,” he said. “But I’m also not saying, in terms of absolute level of — whether it’s speed or strength, they’re the same. I think most people would accept that, too,” the AP reported.
But current USSF President Carlos Cordeiro said during a Jan. 29 deposition that he felt “that the lack of opportunity for our female players was really what was at the root of some of their issues” and that “women’s soccer outside of the United States doesn’t have the same degree of respect,” the AP reported.
A player for the men’s national team for the qualifiers leading up to the failed effort to reach the 2018 World Cup received $179,375 from the USSF. However, an American woman received $52,500 for being on the roster in the successful World Cup qualifiers last year and $147,500 for playing in the World Cup.
Under the current labor deal, the USSF employs 16-21 women players under contract and pays each a $100,000 salary, the AP reported.
U.S. Soccer claimed in a statement that the women’s team players are paid different amounts than men because “they specifically asked for and negotiated a completely different contract than the men’s national team, despite being offered, and rejecting, a similar pay-to-play agreement during the past negotiations," the AP reported.
However, Molly Levinson, a spokeswoman for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, claimed that in the most recent collective bargaining agreement negotiations, the USSF repeatedly said equal pay between the teams “was not an option regardless of pay structure."
“USSF proposed a 'pay to play structure' with less pay across the board. In every instance for a friendly or competitive match, the women players were offered less pay that their male counterparts. This is the very definition of gender discrimination, and of course the players rejected it,” Levinson said.
Earlier this month, the union representing players on the U.S. men’s soccer team said the women’s national team should be paid “significantly more.”