Women's National Team May Boycott The Olympics, Say Players Suing For Equal Pay
As the 2016 Summer Olympics draw closer, it's unclear if the U.S.'s World Cup-winning women's soccer team will even compete — or at least, if many of their star players will. Not only are several team members suing for equal pay, but several U.S. Women's National Team players say that an Olympic boycott is very much a possibility if nothing is being done about the problem. Which is definitely a major bargaining chip, and hopefully one that's significant enough to make equality happen sooner rather than later.
Despite the fact that the Women's National Team has won three World Cups and four Olympic Gold medals in the past three decades, they are paid only 40 percent of what the men's team makes — even though the men's team hasn't won a World Cup since the 1930s. In other words, the men are paid more to represent the United States badly than the women are paid to make the United States the best in the world at something. It's especially galling given that, in the year since their World Cup Win, the women's team has brought in more revenue than the men.
And so five star members of the women's team filed a complaint with the Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission last month. If those members do decide to sit out the Olympics, it would be a big deal. Nonetheless, it seems they are potentially prepared to do that if they don't see progress.
In an interview with ESPN, Becky Sauerbrunn said,
It [boycotting the Olympics] would still be on the table. We are reserving every right to do so, and we’re leaving every avenue open. And if nothing has changed and we don’t feel real progress has been made, then that is a conversation we are going to have.
In a piece for The New York Times this week, Sauerbrunn's teammate and co-captain Carli Lloyd was similarly resolute, though she did not mention a possible Olympic boycott. She writes,
Two years ago, before the Algarve Cup, an important annual tournament in Portugal, we considered going on strike over these issues, but we weren’t completely united then and wound up backing down.
We are not backing down anymore.
The five members who have lodged the EEOC complaint — Carli Lloyd, Becky Sauerbrunn, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, and Hope Solo — are some of the most well-known and highest-performing players on the team. Not to mention the fact that Lloyd and Sauerbrunn are co-captains. If those five players decided to sit out the Olympics, it would drastically change the team's odds of winning the gold, and would probably make international headlines. None of it would likely be good for the United States Soccer Federation's stated goals of growing the game here in the United States.
Gold medals are good for increasing the status of soccer in the eyes of Americans. Being known as a sport that discriminates against women is not.
So let's hope the ladies don't have to make good on this threat and that the federation decides to work with them and make real changes. But if they don't, as much as we'd all love to see these five superstars take the field in Rio, we'll all still be cheering as they sit on the sidelines.