‘It’s a beginning of a future’: US Women’s National Soccer Team pay settlement creates hope for equality

By Samaher AbuRabah, Staff Reporter

Vivian Jones

Senior journalism major Arleth Pulido has played soccer since the sixth grade. Pulido said she felt like the boys’ soccer team even then got opportunities the girls did not, even though Pulido’s team was just as qualified to play competitive soccer as the boys.

“Women’s [soccer] is kind of viewed as less qualified, even if they are professionally trained,” Pulido said. She expressed disappointment that people have seemingly accepted the disparity between the resources given to men’s sports versus women’s sports “throughout history, making women’s soccer not a priority and not something that can have a big fan base and can have an influence on other women.”

A $24 million settlement between the U.S. Women’s National Team and the U.S. Soccer Federation is believed by many to be a step in the right direction toward equal pay for women’s athletics in the future.

In 2016, the U.S. Women’s National Team players Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd, Becky Sauerbrunn, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe filed a federal wage discrimination complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, marking the start of their fight to earn equal pay.

The ensuing lawsuit, filed in 2019, and settlement announced Feb. 22 is something former and current members of the women’s national team have been involved in for six years.

Pulido, who attended Uno Soccer Academy in Chicago, does not feel the players should have settled, but she said this is the start of equality in women’s sports in general, but the settlement should not be the end of the push for women’s equality in sports.

“I feel like women are shut down every time they decide to speak openly and are viewed negatively in this aspect,” Pulido said. “There’s really no difference between a woman and a man. We are both equally qualified, so we should get fair treatment overall, and that’s for all sports.”

The recent settlement is contingent upon the USWNT Players Association union agreeing to a new collective bargaining agreement with the U.S Soccer Federation, according to ESPN.

Although the players did not get the $67 million they wanted, the settlement offers former and current players $24 million, including a $2 million fund that allows players access to grants up to $50,000 for work contributing to the advancement of female soccer, and a promise for a push toward equal pay moving forward.

Monique Maye, an associate professor of instruction in the Business and Entrepreneurship Department, has played basketball internationally, coached numerous basketball teams around the world and is a sports agent in the WNBA. She said the lawsuit is the push for something great, but female athletes should have received this recognition from the start.

“It’s an interesting situation because $24 million sounds like a lot of money, but it makes me want to ask questions about the men’s salary,” Maye said. “I don’t want it to feel as though this is a great thing. While it’s good, and it’s a beginning of a future … to make sure that salaries are comparable to those of the men … but salaries are nowhere near comparable.”

According to ESPN, on average the women’s team earns bonuses that are about half the amount the men’s team earns per win versus top-tier opponents, and just more than half what the men’s team earns for wins versus mid-tier and bottom-tier opponents (52% and 56% respectively). Qualifying for the World Cup brings the women’s team 30% as much as it does the men’s team.

Solo said on Twitter this settlement is frustrating and not guaranteed, and Maye agreed that this is not a win, and the players should not have had to fight for equality. They should have had it from the beginning.

“This is the start of a domino effect. … The U.S. Soccer Federation is looking at it as a win,” Maye said. “It’s not a win; it’s the beginning of what they should have done years ago. If these women hadn’t fought for equal pay, no one would be rushing to them to give them the money they solely deserve for the work that they do.”