More than 26 months since their suit against U.S. Soccer was filed and more than 14 months since U.S. District Court Judge R. Gary Klausner
dismissed key parts related to their equal pay claim without letting the case go to trial, members of the U.S. women's national team have, as expected, appealed the ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
In May 2020, Klausner rejected the players' claim that they had not been paid equally under their collective bargaining agreement to that of the men’s national team and asked for damages they estimated to be more than $66 million under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Klausner's decision rested on his finding that the agreements were simply different, not unequal.
“The history of negotiations between the parties demonstrates that the WNT rejected an offer to be paid under the same pay-to-play structure as the MNT, and the WNT was willing to forgo higher bonuses for benefits, such as greater base compensation and the guarantee of a higher number of contracted players,” he wrote. “Accordingly, plaintiffs cannot now retroactively deem their CBA worse than the MNT CBA by reference to what they would have made had they been paid under the MNT’s pay-to-play terms structure when they themselves rejected such a structure."
One crucial element in a pay discrimination claim is the rate of play, how much women make in comparison to men.
U.S. Soccer argued successfully that the women ($220,747 per match) made more per game than the men ($212,639). In their appeal, the women argue that difference was due their success: "The court did not account for performance -- specifically, that the women had to be the best in the world to make about the same amount per game as the much less successful men."
The women also argued that the federation's "discriminatory employment actions" -- statements made by federation representatives -- should have gone to a jury for it to decide whether the federation discriminated against their players.
U.S. Soccer has repeatedly stated that it is willing to meet with the players to settle the case. In its statement issued to the media on Friday, the federation reiterated the essence of the Klausner's ruling:
“In ruling in favor of U.S. Soccer on the players’ pay discrimination claims, the District Court rightly noted that the Women’s National Team negotiated for a different pay structure than the Men’s National Team, and correctly held that the Women’s National Team was paid more both cumulatively and on an average per-game basis than the Men’s National Team."