Last week was Equal Pay Day, a symbolic event dedicated to raising awareness about the gender pay gap. And the women’s national team, which is taking its federation to court to raise awareness of that gap in U.S. soccer, moved a big step closer to equality in one measurement when a corporate sponsor promised to make up the difference between World Cup bonuses paid to men’s and women’s players.
LUNA Bar, a nutrition bar marketed to women, said Tuesday it will give each of the 23 players on the U.S. team this summer $31,250, which the women say is the difference between bonuses paid by the federation to players on the men’s and women’s World Cup rosters.
“Unfortunately U.S. Soccer hasn’t closed that gap,” said forward Megan Rapinoe, who hopes to play in her third World Cup this summer in France. “But the market is there. The appetite is there.”
“They believe in us,” she continued, pointing to corporate sponsors such as LUNA Bar and Adidas, who announced last month that the bonuses it will pay Adidas-sponsored players on the winning team in the Women’s World Cup will be equal to what it paid players on France’s world championship men’s team last year. “They believe in the bigger fight.”
The 28 players in the national team pool filed suit in federal court in Los Angeles last month saying U.S. Soccer slights the women in pay, bonuses and per diems as well as travel and other accommodations.
The federation has pushed back claiming – correctly – that U.S. Soccer has spent millions of dollars to subsidize the National Women’s Soccer League, pay the guaranteed club salaries for national team players and provide insurance and other benefits it doesn’t offer the men.
Now Congress is involved, with 34 senators -- including Californians Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris -- last week sending a letter to U.S. Soccer Federation president Carlos Cordeiro urging him to address the issue of pay disparity.
Cordeiro has already pledged to do that in his own letter, writing that he is “committed to working with our USWNT players and understanding specifically where they believe improvement is needed.”
Meanwhile other countries are making progress of their own. Last week Canada Soccer reached a two-year compensation agreement with its women’s team that general secretary Peter Montopoli says will subsidize the club salaries of select players and pay per diems equal to that given the men’s team. And last year, after the men’s players transferred some of their money to the women’s program, Norway’s federation agreed to equal pay for both national teams.
(It should be noted the teams aren’t really equal. The Norwegian men, who have won just one World Cup game since World War II, are ranked 48th in the world by FIFA while the women, who have won world and Olympic championships, are 12th.)
“As the game progresses internationally, everybody wins. That’s the cool thing,” said U.S. forward Alex Morgan. “There has been a lot of development in European soccer on the women’s side. And that’s fantastic for us. We take pride in pushing things forward.“This country and this team have always been looked at as a leader in what we’re doing for women and girls. And it will continue to be that way.”