U.S. Soccer Ripped for 'Paleolithic' Defense in USWNT Wage-Discrimination Lawsuit

John Healy
March 11, 2020 - 11:43 am

The U.S. Soccer Federation argued in court filings on Monday that the women’s national team does not deserve equal pay as the men because they do not perform an equal amount of work in terms of revenue potential or the physical labor of the sport.

Per ESPN’s Graham Hays, who obtained the court filings, the USSF asserted in its motion that the “overall soccer-playing ability required to compete at the senior men’s national team level is materially influenced by the level of certain physical attributes, such as speed and strength, required for the job.”

The USWNT, who won the FIFA World Cup in 2019, are seeking $66 million in damages in a wage-discrimination lawsuit against U.S. Soccer, citing violation of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

The two sides faced a deadline to file responses to an earlier motion, which was essentially asking the judge to rule on the case based on facts already presented instead of bringing it in front of a trial jury scheduled in federal court in California on May 5.

In addition to the USSF arguing a difference of physical attributes, it also argued women’s soccer is easier than men’s soccer.

“There is also evidence that MNT players face tougher competition, even on a relative basis,” the motion said, per Hays. “There is a significantly deeper pool of competition in men’s international soccer than there is in women’s international soccer, eve when assessing the issue in relative terms.”

Molly Levison, a spokesperson for the USWNT players, issued a scathing response to the USSF.

“This ridiculous ‘argument’ belongs in the Paleolithic era,” she said. “It sounds as if it has been made by a caveman. Literally everyone in the world understands that an argument that male players ‘have more responsibility’ is just plain, simple sexism and illustrates the very gender discrimination that caused us to file this lawsuit to begin with. So [I’m] looking forward to trial on May 5.”

Lawyers for the 28 players involved in the suit responded that the “female players have not been treated equally,” and used an example of male and female firefighters that require the “same skill and effort and responsibilities” as a juxtaposition for their argument.

“That biological distinction is not a justification for the discrimination,” the plaintiffs said. “It is the prohibited discrimination itself.”

The USSF also pointed to other revenue-generating international tournaments the men play in, such as the Gold Cup and Copa America, as well as better viewership numbers for the men’s team in the World Cup.

However, it was not noted that the men’s team had not qualified for the World Cup since 2010.

“The job skills and effort and responsibilities are the same,” the USWNT lawyers said. “It is all equal work requiring equal pay under [the Equal Pay Act]. Arguing the WNT did not win its two World Cups ‘against the most elite male soccer players in the world’ is not a defense under the EPA; it is a tone deaf admission of blatant gender-based discrimination.”

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