The U.S. women’s national soccer team has suffered a major setback in its gender discrimination lawsuit.
Judge R. Gary Klausner dismissed the team’s unequal pay claims on Friday in a U.S. District Court in central California. He did say the unequal travel and medical staff claims can still go to trial on June 16.
Regardless, the dismissal of the unequal pay claims will likely have ripple effects throughout women’s sports.
“We are shocked and disappointed with today’s decision,” USWNT players’ spokesperson Molly Levinson said in a statement, “but we will not give up our hard work for equal pay. We are confident in our case and steadfast in our commitment to ensuring that girls and women who play this sport will not be valued as lesser just because of their gender.
“We have learned that there are tremendous obstacles to change; we know that it takes bravery and courage and perseverance to stand up to them,’ Levinson continued. “Words cannot express our gratitude to all who support us.”
Levinson also said the team plans to appeal the decision, which comes after the team’s five-year campaign. In November, the players were granted class status, to include all past members of the women’s national team, in the suit, by Judge Klausner.
On Friday, Klausner ruled the team had been paid more than the U.S. men’s national soccer team and played more games than the MNT within the same class period, according to court documents acquired by The Athletic. The WNT played 111 games and earned $220,747 per game ($24.5M total) in the same time period the MNT played 87 games and earned $212,639 per game ($18.5M total).
“Based on this evidence, it appears, the WNT did not make more money than the MNT solely because it played more games,” the summary on the ruling read. “Rather, the WNT both played more games and made more money than the MNT per game.”
The summary also discussed a previous negotiation between the WNT and USSF. In 2017, the WNT was offered a “pay-to-play” structure similar to the MNT’s CBA. The agreement would have been for the WNT to be allotted 20 contracted players with base salaries of $100K, $8,500 in bonuses per win and $1,750 per tie.
“This history of negotiations between the parties demonstrates that they WNT rejected an offer to be paid under the same pay-to-play structure as MNT, and that the WNT was willing to forgo higher bonuses for the other benefits, such as greater base compensation and the guarantee of a higher number of contracted players,” ruling read. “Accordingly, Plaintiff cannot now retroactively deem their CBA worse than the MNT CBA by reference to what they would have made had they been paid under the MNT’s pay-to-play structure when they themselves rejected such a structure.”
Many players on the WNT took to social media in a flurry to voice their thoughts on Friday’s decision.
“We will continue on in the fight for equal pay,” WNT player Christen Press said in response to Levinson’s statement on Twitter.
“This team never gives up and we’re not going to start now. #USWNT,” fellow teammate Tobin Heath said.
“We will never stop fighting for EQUALITY,” the team’s outspoken leader Megan Rapinoe wrote on Twitter.
Rapinoe, along with fellow WNT veterans Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd have been at the forefront of the team’s five-year campaign for equal pay since March 2016. The players on that year’s team, including Becky Sauerbrunn and Hope Solo filed a federal discrimination complaint, calling for an investigation into unequal pay between the USWNT and their male counterparts, despite often having higher ratings and viewership.
The team capped its historic 2019 by winning its fourth World Cup in July. The women’s team’s resume also includes four Olympic gold medals and eight CONCACAF Gold Cups.
Since that win, the team’s gender equality and equal pay campaign gained much public attention and support, including from the men’s national soccer team, as well as much push back from the U.S. Soccer Federation.