Amid the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup, U.S. Soccer and the U.S. women's team have agreed to mediate a gender-discrimination lawsuit, according to The Wall Street Journal. The tentative agreement comes after years of highly-publicized clashes between the federation and 28 players in the U.S. women's national team player pool over alleged gender discrimination and pay inequality. According to the paper, both parties are expected to begin mediation following the Women's World Cup.
"In the midst of the World Cup, following news regarding significant revenue generated by the women players, USSF decided it is time to sit down with the players' lawyers," said Molly Levinson, a spokesperson for the 28 players involved in the lawsuit, according to The Wall Street Journal. "We hope their pledge to submit a proposal to solve the ongoing gender disparities is genuine. It would be truly remarkable for these games to mark the beginning of pay equity. The world is watching."
The U.S. women's national team formally filed a lawsuit against U.S. Soccer in March, three years after Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, and Becky Sauerbrunn had filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In their suit, the players alleged U.S. Soccer "has a policy and practice of discriminating" on the basis of gender against female national team players by paying them less than male national team players, NPR reported.
According to CNBC, the lawsuit stated that from 2013 to 2016 women earned $15,000 when they made the national team compared to men who earned $55,000 in 2014 and $68,750 in 2018. The lawsuit also alleged that, if the teams won each of the 20 non-tournament games their contracts required they played, female players would earn $4,950 per game for a maximum of $99,000, compared to the $13,166 male players garnered per game for a maximum of $263,320.
Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, U.S. Soccer denied the allegation. "U.S. Soccer's challenged pay practices are not based on sex," the federation said in a response filed with the court, per ABC News. Instead, U.S. Soccer claimed "any alleged pay differential" was a result of "differences in the aggregate revenue generated by the different teams."
However, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that audited financial statements from U.S. Soccer showed games played by the U.S. women's team over the last three years had generated more revenue than those played by the men's team. According to the paper, women's games resulted in $50.8 million in revenue from 2016 to 2018, compared to the $49.9 million generated by men's games.
On Saturday, the federation appeared less than thrilled with reports publicizing the tentative agreement for mediation. "While we welcome the opportunity to mediate, we are disappointed the plaintiffs' counsel felt it necessary to share this news publicly during the Women's World Cup and create any possible distraction from the team's focus on the tournament and success on the field," the federation said in a statement, per the Associated Press.
But players on the U.S. women's national team didn't seem distracted by the news. In fact, defender Kelley O'Hara told the AP her focus was currently zeroed in on "winning the World Cup" and she wouldn't turn her mind to the lawsuit until the team got home.
"Here to win a World Cup, lawyers are at home to do their thing, so we both have our jobs," O'Hara said. "This team has always been good at compartmentalizing. We focus on the task at hand and I haven't paid any mind on anything that's been going on."