Federal judge approves partial deal between women, US Soccer

Sports

USA’s Alex Morgan looks on, after the women’s international friendly soccer match between Sweden and USA at Friends Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, Saturday, April 10, 2021. (Janerik Henriksson/TT via AP)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A federal judge approved a partial deal between players on the women’s national team and the U.S. Soccer Federation over unequal working conditions.

U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner approved the Dec. 1 settlement during a hearing Monday. The deal calls for charter flights, hotel accommodations, venue selection and professional staff support equitable to that of the men’s national team.

Players sued the USSF in March 2019, contending they have not been paid equitably under their collective bargaining agreement that runs through December 2021, compared to what the men’s team receives under its agreement that expired in December 2018. The women asked for more than $66 million in damages under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Klausner dismissed the pay claim last May, ruling the women rejected a pay-to-play structure similar to the one in the men’s agreement and accepted greater base salaries and benefits than the men, who failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

“Finally, giving these athletes access to facilities, training, care and professional support is the next step needed in the long and hard work to grow the game of women’s football,” players spokeswoman Molly Levinson said in a statement.

Klausner’s approval of the settlement allows the players to ask the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn his decision on unequal pay.

“We intend to appeal the court’s equal pay decision, which does not account for the fact that women players have been paid at lesser rates than men who do the same job,” Levinson said.

“We are committed as ever to our work to achieve the equal pay that we legally deserve and our focus is on the future and ensuring we leave the game a better place for the next generation of women who will play for this team and our country.”

The USSF said it expected an appeal and remains “hopeful” of a “resolution outside of the court system.”

“U.S. Soccer is 100% committed to equal pay,” the governing body said in a statement. “We have offered the USWNT the identical compensation provided to our men’s players for all matches controlled by U.S. Soccer.

“Unfortunately, the USWNT has not accepted our offer or our longstanding invitation to meet to try to find a resolution unless U.S. Soccer first agrees to make up the difference between the men’s and Women’s World Cup prize money, which is determined, controlled and paid for by FIFA.”

FIFA awarded $400 million in prize money for the 32 teams at the 2018 men’s World Cup, including $38 million to champion France. It awarded $30 million for the 24 teams at the 2019 Women’s World Cup, including $4 million to the U.S. after the Americans won their second straight title.

FIFA has increased the total to $440 million for the 2022 men’s World Cup, and FIFA President Gianni Infantino has proposed FIFA double the women’s prize money to $60 million for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, where FIFA has increased the teams to 32.

The women, in response to the USSF statement, called it “disappointing and disheartening to see yet another misleading statement without a meaningful effort from USSF on equal pay.

“USSF has not offered to meet with the players to resolve equal pay,” they said. “In truth, USSF’s last settlement offer, which was over a year ago, offered far less than equal pay to the players. If USSF was ‘100% committed to equal pay,’ then USSF would have offered the players equal pay and equal working conditions, and the players would not have been forced to file a lawsuit in order to try to achieve equality.”

The women contend the USSF has …

• Not offered equal pay, even for exhibitions.

• Not offered equal pay for any WNT players for tournament games such as the She Believes Cup.

• Not offered equal pay for any World Cup qualifying or World Cup games, choosing to perpetuate the discrimination that the world condemned in France.

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