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US Soccer has hired lobbyists to argue they pay the women just fine

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Yeah, sure, that’s one way to spend your money.

U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Victory Parade Photo by Debra L Rothenberg/WireImage

A report from Politico today said that US Soccer has hired two lobbying firms to convince lawmakers in Washington, D.C. that the women’s claims in their equal pay fight are incorrect, and that this should be taken into account by anyone proposing legislation to pay the women and the men equally.

Politico listed the two firms as FBB Federal Relations and Van Ness Feldman. They also provided a presentation they obtained that was prepared in order to further USSF’s position that they are not underpaying the WNT.

The presentation shows slides comparing the WNT and MNT contract structures (guaranteed base salary vs payment for making rosters/winning games), showing that the WNT receives some benefits that the MNT does not get like health care and maternity leave, comparing World Cup prize money between men and women, and then at the end brags about how much USSF has already invested in the women’s game.

Importantly, these slides lack any context around why the WNT and MNT’s compensations are structured differently, as well as any context around the different histories of men’s and women’s soccer. Things like the men not receiving payment for Olympic participation leave out key information, like the Olympics being a full senior tournament for the women and a mostly U-23 tournament for the men. It claims to offer the women benefits the men don’t get, but really all that points out is that the men should probably be bargaining for some of these benefits too, like paternity leave and injury protection.

The slides also neglect to mention the women were willing to move to the MNT’s bonus structure, according to a player spokesperson, but got turned down by USSF. You can imagine why, when you see the bonuses all added up, as the Guardian did, that show how the men make more money through qualification and points won and advancement through knockouts at the World Cup, separate from World Cup prize money.

The last slide crucially does not mention just how little investment was needed until very recently for the United States to outpace the majority of other women’s teams. USSF managed to be better than a lot of bad federations, which is a low bar for bragging rights.

One wonders just how much money USSF is sinking into paying two lobbying firms, rather than putting that money towards the women’s team, or even other areas of USSF, like grassroots soccer or developing coaches and referees. Maybe they’re prepared to game it over the long run, where paying some lobbyists to influence gender equity legislation is cheaper than years of paying women more. Whatever the reasoning, that’s probably not going to kick off mediation with an air of optimism.