At face value, the federal judge who rejected the U.S. women’s national team’s equal pay suit Friday makes some compelling legal arguments. For starters, the USWNT negotiated their own collective bargaining agreement with an inferior pay structure, and thus are culpable for the terms of the deal. There’s also the fact USWNT players actually earned more than their male counterparts over the last four years, nullifying the essence of their claim.
But in an interview Monday with ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Megan Rapinoe successfully rebuked both arguments. The two-time World Cup champ and international star explained why the WNT earning more than the MNT in recent years doesn’t mean the pay structure is fair — it just means the women’s team has been a lot better.
The MNT didn’t qualify for the last World Cup in 2018.
“If I earn $1 every time I play, and a man earns $3, just because I win 10 games and he only wins three games, so I made $10 and he made $9, I’m not sure how that’s me making more money, while having to essentially win everything we could’ve possibly won over these last two years: two World Cups and just about every game we’ve played,” Rapinoe said to GMA anchor Robin Roberts. “For me, it missed the point, and was very disappointing, to be honest.”
“We are fighters and we’ll continue to fight together for this.” @USWNT #WorldCup champions @mPinoe and @alexmorgan13 speak out on the latest setback in their equal pay fight and what’s next. https://t.co/0nOJnS4zxy pic.twitter.com/iJhHszhKyB— Good Morning America (@GMA) May 4, 2020
The WNT played 111 games over the period in question, 2015-19, while the MNT played 87 contests. During that time frame, Judge R. Gary Klausner concluded the women made $24.5 overall in salaries, equaling $221,000 per game, whereas the men brought home $213,000.
In other words, the women worked more to earn more. As Rapinoe says, that doesn’t constitute equal pay.
The WNT and MNT negotiated different CBAs with the U.S. Soccer Federation, which took a condescending stance towards the women in this suit, when its lawyers argued the MNT is more skilled and carries greater responsibility. USSF president Carlos Cordeiro resigned over the embarrassing leaked court documents.
As Sports Illustrated’s Michael McCann explains, WNT players are largely compensated through guarantees, while MNT players have lower base salaries but earn higher bonuses. In his ruling, Judge Klausner, who was appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush, said the WNT should blame their own CBA for any pay disparities.
“The history of negotiations between the parties demonstrates that the WNT rejected an offer to be paid under the same pay-to-play structure as the MNT, and that the WNT was willing to forgo higher bonuses for other benefits, such as greater base compensation and the guarantee of a higher number of contracted players,” the judge wrote, via SI.
The problem with Judge Klausner’s ruling is, it assumes both negotiations were conducted under equal terms. Rapinoe says that isn’t the case.
“The men’s contract was never offered to us, and certainly not the same amount of money,” she said. “To say we negotiated for a contract and that’s what we agreed to, I think so many women can understand what that feeling is going into a negotiation, knowing that equal pay is not on the table.”
Judge Klausner did find merit in the WNT’s claim that the USSF discriminated against them under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, in regards to workplace conditions. The smaller set of claims will move forward to a jury trial scheduled for June 16, assuming coronavirus restrictions in California ease.
The WNT can appeal their loss to the U.S. Ninth Circuit of Appeals. Alex Morgan, who joined Rapinoe for the interview, pledged the team will continue to fight on.
“This decision was out of left field for us,” she said. “If anybody knows this team, we are fighters, and we are fighting together for this.”