Untangling the mess of the WNT pay gap

Giancarlo Navas/ Staff Writer

The United States Women’s National team (USWNT) is once again at war with their soccer federation. Five players from America’s most successful soccer team have filed for a wage-discrimination action against the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In the past the WNT have fought for better playing and travel conditions and while never getting much success with these movements, they have garnered a lot of public support. Their latest movement, however, is being meet with more resistance.

There are many dissenting opinions of what is fair pay in a sports business model, based on revenue brought in and collective bargaining agreements.

Following the release of the USSF’s 3025 financial report, the WNT felt like they had a legitimate case. According to the report the WNT made approximately $20 million more than their male counterparts, while getting only a fourth of the pay. Any capitalist would agree that’s wrong and in an anti-Marxist America it feels kind of illegal.

However this isn’t a simple conversation. There are layers to it and untangling it all makes for difficult nuance, it isn’t as black and white as saying; they made more money therefore they should get paid more.

I think agreeing on the aforementioned is a starting point that any sensible American can get behind. However what makes this complicated and hazy is the odd labor discussions the WNT find themselves in. Their collective bargaining agreement (CBA) expired in 2012 and the women have been operating under a memorandum of understanding (MOU) while the new CBA is being negotiated.

The divide is tangibly delineated here as the point of contention and key to the WNT’s case action is what exactly does this MOU mean. What the USSF says is that the MOU is supposed to keep much of the CBA’s structure while tweaking a few key points and that it extends to the end of this year.

The WNT says it’s only a stop-gap measure not an end all be all. However, the MOU specifically details the player’s salaries, which range from 36,000  a year to 72,000 a year.

Richard Nichols who is the executive director of the players union informed the USSF in December of 2015 that the MOU was invalid as a CBA and if a new one was not put into play by February of 2016 then it would end and the player’s would be bound by it’s no-strike clause.

So here is where the case lies, a judge will have to decide the limits and powers this MOU has and if the player’s union has a leg to stand on.

It is complex and layered and the numbers of the pay gap are startling when you think of how much more successful the WNT has been than the men’s national team (MNT). Each player on the MNT for example, get’s $5,000 for losing a friendly.

The WNT gets paid $1,350 for a win. If the MNT wins a World Cup Qualifier match they get $12,500, the WNT gets nothing. The MNT also get bonuses for winning world cup games while the WNT do not see any additional money until a fourth place game. The bonus for winning a World Cup for the WNT is $75,000 per player and the bonus for the MNT is $9.375 million to the team player pool.

The numbers are uncomfortable, especially when considering the WNT brought in $20 million more last year. It is important to remember that 2015 was the first year that the WNT had ever earned more than the men and that it was in part due to it being a World Cup year paired with their victory tour across the country.

You would have to understand how upset this would make the WNT. They are fighting for not only equal pay, but equal playing conditions as men and equal travel accommodations as men. They look at last year and saw how they made significantly more money than the MNT and on top of all of that, they are much more successful.

So what are left with are people who feel literally unvalued and look at their male counterparts and see how much better they are treated financially.

Who can blame them, it’s a human and natural feeling to have and from a moral standpoint, they’re right. But, this is business and business is cold and does not favor morality.  The issue is not one so black and white, but as the WNT continue to wear red white and blue, the only color that matters is grey.

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