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USWNT ends mediation with US Soccer, will pursue jury trial for equal pay

A letter from the players to the federation dated Aug. 12 said the players were eager to sit down with USSF representatives to discuss equal pay and working conditions.

United States' players celebrate after Christen Press scored her side's first goal during the Women's World Cup semifinal soccer match between England and the United States, at the Stade de Lyon, outside Lyon, France, Tuesday, July 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

United States women’s national team players will pursue a jury trial after concluding mediation with the U.S. Soccer Federation “sorely disappointed.”

“We entered this week’s mediation with representatives of USSF full of hope. Today we must conclude these meetings sorely disappointed in the Federation’s determination to perpetuate fundamentally discriminatory workplace conditions and behavior,” Molly Levinson, a spokeswoman for the players, said in a statement released Wednesday. “It is clear that USSF, including its Board of Directors and President Carlos Cordeiro, fully intend to continue to compensate women players less than men. They will not succeed. We want all of our fans, sponsors, peers around the world, and women everywhere to know we are undaunted and will eagerly look forward to a jury trial.”

letter from the players to the federation dated Aug. 12 said the players were eager to sit down with USSF representatives to discuss equal pay and working conditions. U.S. Soccer also expressed a desire in the months leading to mediation to find a resolution outside of court and lauded the USWNT’s accomplishments on the world stage.

“We hope that we can enter a new era of working alongside one another,” the letter read. “We have worked very hard to get to this moment.”

But those discussions fell apart just days later.

“We have said numerous times that our goal is to find a resolution, and during mediation we had hoped we would be able to address the issues in a respectful manner and reach an agreement,” U.S. Soccer said in a statement. “Unfortunately, instead of allowing mediation to proceed in a considerate manner, plaintiffs’ counsel took an aggressive and ultimately unproductive approach that follows months of presenting misleading information to the public in an effort to perpetuate confusion.

“We always know there is more we can do. We value our players, and have continually shown that, by providing them with compensation and support that exceeds any other women’s team in the world. Despite inflammatory statements from their spokesperson, which are intended to paint our actions inaccurately and unfairly, we are undaunted in our efforts to continue discussions in good faith.”

USWNT veteran Carli Lloyd declined to talk about the mediation after her team, Sky Blue FC, beat the Chicago Red Stars 2-1 in the only National Women’s Soccer League game Wednesday night.

I was playing, so I have no idea,” Lloyd said when asked about Levinson’s statement. “I was part of it yesterday, but today was focusing so I can’t [say]. Got to catch up with my teammates, … I don’t know what I’m advised to say or not say, so I’m going to leave it at that.”

None of other national team players stopped in the mixed zone for postgame interviews.

The federal class-action lawsuit filed March 8 by 28 players, including all of the World Cup roster, alleged systemic gender-based pay discrimination, in addition to unequal marketing and playing, travel and training conditions. The lawsuit demanded a jury trial for violations of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The players and the federation agreed to mediation in June, during the 2019 World Cup in France, which the United States won by beating Netherlands July 7 for back-to-back titles.

“What happened during the 2019 World Cup tournament was remarkable,” the women’s pre-mediation letter said. “The world turned its attention to women’s football, and the potential for the sport that has long been neglected began to emerge. We witnessed higher revenue numbers, higher ratings, more fans, more enthusiasm. The tired, arcane, irrelevant arguments and protestations of the male-dominated soccer world fell apart during those weeks. And we were hopeful once again, when your representatives agreed, under significant pressure from fans, sponsors, and lawmakers, to meet with us and submit a proposal for equal pay.”

Last month, U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro released an open letter outlining what he described as key facts about the men’s and women’s pay, including the federation’s argument it paid the women more in the last 10 years than it paid the men in salaries and game bonuses. It also outlined the different pay structures for the men and women in their respective CBA’s, which included the women’s annual salaries and benefits. 

The statement received a swift rebuke from both the men’s and women’s national teams, which said the numbers used were false and misleading.

The players’ pre-mediation letter traced the history of their fight for equal pay and the current Collective Bargaining Agreement that was negotiated in 2017, saying both sides acknowledged at the time that the CBA did not and could not resolve the pending equal pay and treatment issues.

“It’s time,” the players said before talks fell apart. “For both parties, the risk of not resolving our disagreements over equal treatment that were not addressed either in bargaining or through the EEOC is too high. U.S. Soccer’s reputation, sponsor relations, fan support, and federal funding for the 2026 World Cup tournament are all at risk, and that risk continues should we not reach resolution.”

That resolution is still to come.

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