ORLANDO, Fla. — Orlando Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris just shakes her head in disbelief that civilization has advanced to the year 2019 — an inclusive and enlightened time when her recent engagement to teammate Ali Krieger was celebrated among fans and athletes throughout the soccer world — and yet, Harris and her colleagues on the U.S. women’s national team are still treated as second-class citizens compared to their male counterparts.
A marriage between two women is legally and socially acceptable, as it should be, but sadly, so too is unequal compensation among American men and women soccer players. Even when the women are much better at their jobs than the men.
Which is why Harris, her superstar Pride teammate Alex Morgan and the 26 other members of our world champion national women’s soccer team just filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against U.S. Soccer — the federation that governs the sport in this country. Our women want equal pay, equal perks, equal working conditions, equal resources, equal per diems, equal travel arrangements, equal everything.
And not only do these amazing women deserve the same treatment as their male counterparts; they probably deserve more. Our men’s national team has never won diddly poo and couldn’t even get to the World Cup last year; our dominant, dynamic women’s team is the premier power on the planet with three World Cups and four Olympic gold medals.
Memo to U.S. Soccer: Check your bleeping calendar! This is 2019; not 1919. Believe it or not, women are actually allowed to vote now and, yes, even own land.
Why is this even a topic of discussion?
Why doesn’t U.S. Soccer just do what any decent parent would do: Treat your daughters with the same respect as you treat your sons?
“We’re wondering the same thing,” Harris told me Thursday during Pride media day. “This has to change and we’re trying to create that change. It shouldn’t be up for debate whether I make the same amount as a man if I’m doing the same damn job and I’m putting in the same work, the same hours and I’m getting better results and bringing in more money. This shouldn’t be a conversation; it should be a freaking right.”
This is not only a fight for the U.S. women’s national team, it’s a fight for women athletes everywhere. Correction, it’s a fight for women in every profession in every country across the globe.
“As female athletes, they (the U.S. women’s national team) are pioneers. They are fighting the good fight for the rest of us,” said Pride defender Alanna Kennedy, a member of the Australian national team.
Said Morgan: “This isn’t just about us; It’s about women in all industries. Women fight for equality every single day. Our hope is that we not only set up ourselves, we set up the next generation as well.”
U.S. Soccer should be ashamed of itself. The organization will tell you that this is a complicated compensation issue because the U.S. women’s national team and the U.S. men’s national team have separate collective bargaining agreements with different pay structures. U.S. Soccer will also tell you that they are at the mercy of FIFA, the world soccer governing body that doles out $400 million in bonuses to the 32 men’s teams participating in the World Cup whereas the 24 women’s teams get only $30 million in bonuses.
This argument is lame. The U.S. men’s national team, riding the coattails of Brazil, Argentina, France, Germany, etc., has little to do with the financial success of the World Cup. The U.S. men are sort of like Vanderbilt cashing that $50 million TV check from the SEC every year just because the Commodores are lucky enough to be in the same conference as Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Florida.
Meanwhile, the U.S. women’s national team is Alabama; they are THE reason for the financial success of their World Cup. Not only that, but an argument could also be made that the U.S. women have had 10 times the impact of their male counterparts in growing the game of soccer in this country. The U.S. women are national heroes. The U.S. men are national nobodies.
Without question, if you were judging and compensating them on merit, then the U.S. women should actually get more, not less, than the U.S. men. But this should not be based on merit; it should be based on fairness.
U.S. Soccer isn’t some independent, privately-owned sports league like the NBA. Nobody has an issue with NBA players making significantly more money than WNBA players because the NBA makes billions of dollars every year whereas the WNBA doesn’t even break even.
But U.S. Soccer is a nonprofit organization that funds the United States men’s national team and the United States women’s national team.
The two key words here are, “United States.” And in the United States, all men and women are created equal.
Iconic Orlando Pride forward Marta, commonly recognized as the greatest women’s soccer player of all-time, is a Brazilian goodwill ambassador to the United Nations who says women’s inequality around the world is a major issue on her agenda.
“You shouldn’t have to win anything to be treated equally,” Marta said. “Women should be treated equally to men because it’s the right thing to do.”