I’ve spent the afternoon reading the most-recent materials from the lawsuit between U.S. women national team soccer players and the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF). And in a word, they are incredible …
In a deposition former USSF president Sunil Gulati makes a claim that the USMNT and USWNT are playing different games, and implies that because of the inferiority of women to men, they do not deserve equal pay. This represents a fairly new line of argument by USSF, which in the past has focused on revenues attributed to each squad.
Here is Gulati invoking genetics as a basis for justifying unequal compensation:
In a deposition of U.S. WNT player Carli Lloyd the attorney for USSF pressed this same point, asking Lloyd why the USWNT practices against u16 boys teams but not u18:
3 LLOYD: For us to get something out of it
4 to challenge ourselves but also to be able to
5 compete with the size, strength, and
6 athleticism of the boys, that’s where we have
7 capped it off. That’s where our coaches have
8 capped it off because suddenly it becomes a
9 non-skill game but versus athletic big,
10 strong, fast game.
11 Q. And do you think the team could be
12 competitive against the national U18 team?
13 LLOYD: If they weren’t big, strong and
15 Q. Sure.
16 LLOYD: And they weren’t men? The
17 genetics they essentially have, yes.
18 Q. They are men, of course, right?
19 LLOYD: Of course.
20 Q. Okay. And so if you —
21 LLOYD: But if you’re basing it off of
22 skill, yes, I think that we are a very skilled
23 team and we definitely could.
24 Q. Okay. And do you think that the
25 team could be competitive against the senior
1 Men’s National Team?
2 LLOYD: I’m not sure.
3 Q. Okay.
4 LLOYD Shall we fight it out to see who
5 wins and then we get paid more?
6 Q. It would be a great event,
7 wouldn’t it?
8 LLOYD: Might be some injuries there.
9 Q. Well, let’s hope not. We don’t
10 want that for either team.
11 LLOYD: Just kidding.
In its motion for summary judgment (to throw the case out, PDF) the USSF explicitly advances an argument that because women are not as fast and strong as men (“different physical skills”) the claim for equal pay must fail.
This argument is remarkable: it weaponizes the existence of separate men’s and women’s categories of competition to argue that certain metrics of physical prowess inherently make men deserving of greater compensation than women. USSF acknowledges that women and men play in different categories, but then uses hypothetical competitions between women and men to justify discrimination. It is the old 2 of 3 sets versus 3 out of 5 set argument that tennis governing bodies have long put to rest.
The USSF argument is contrary to how much of the sporting world has been addressing this issue — notably, tennis, hockey, track and field. Also of note, the U.S. Olympic Committee recently acted to equalize bonus money between Olympians and Paralympians, irrespective of whether a two-legged athlete can run faster than a double amputee.
My views on this issue remains unchanged from that which I’ve expressed for years: The U.S. Congress could readily solve this issue by requiring non-profit “national governing bodies” covered by the Ted Stevens Act to compensate women and male athletes equally, and to collectively bargain together.
Meantime, USSF is really doing athletes a disservice by expressing such blatantly discriminatory and dismissive views of the USWNT, which is one of the most successful international teams the U.S. has ever placed into international competition, and more notably so because soccer is not a sport born in America.