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USWNT and USSF reach partial agreement on equal pay lawsuit

Finally, some good (ish) news.

2020 SheBelieves Cup - United States v Japan Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

The US women’s national team and US soccer federation have resolved several non-compensation issues that were part of the USWNT’s equal pay lawsuit, the team and the federation announced today. With both parties filing a proposed settlement in court today, and pending judge approval, USSF will now update policies dealing with accommodations, staffing, venues, and travel - but not on actual salaries, not just yet.

USSF president Cindy Parlow Cone said via press release:

This is an important and welcomed moment for U.S. Soccer and the Women’s National Team players. Earlier this year, I stepped into the role as President, and shortly after we hired Will Wilson as our new CEO. We, and the rest of the leadership team at U.S. Soccer, are focused on taking a new approach at the Federation in handling all matters.

I believe our approach helped us reach this agreement and demonstrates the commitment of U.S. Soccer’s new leadership to find a new way forward with the USWNT. This settlement is good news for everyone and I believe will serve as a springboard for continued progress.

The USWNT players also made a statement:

The Players’ Association shares the Plaintiffs’ satisfaction that long unequal working conditions will be equal going forward. The PA also shares the Plaintiffs’ commitment to achieving equal pay for equal work and to making soccer better for the next generation of players.

This continues Parlow Cone’s progress in moving both parties towards some kind of overall resolution, following on from a fairly serious demonstration of her commitment when she axed the federation’s previous law firm for their disastrous “men are stronger and faster therefore deserve more money” filing - which was then followed by the resignation of USSF’s chief legal officer, Lydia Wahlke. In public, at least, Parlow Cone appears to have soothed many ruffled feathers and made some good faith gestures that may get the USWNT players to come more willingly to the bargaining table. Not bad considering Carlos Cordeiro resigned in March of this year. (Yeah, this year. Yes, it feels like that was at least three years ago to us too.)

“This is a good day,” Parlow Cone said on a conference call with media after the initial announcement, adding that she considered this agreement “just the first step.” She emphasized that this was a new US Soccer, with a new, more collaborative vibe, and that she wants to “continue to rebuild the trust between the players and the federation.”

In response to a question about if she would like to get things resolved before the next federation presidential election, she said, “I would love it if that would happen. I think that’s a pretty fast timeline, but I’ll sit down with the women any time to try to work through the issues that they still have on equal pay. I can tell you that we are 100% committed to equal pay.” She said they’ve offered the WNT the same contract as the MNT for all games under USSF’s control, but cannot and would not be able to address the players’ request to make up the difference in FIFA World Cup prize money between men and women, saying that it would “bankrupt” US Soccer.

However, she also said, “I think moving past this litigation is not only important for soccer in the US but I think it’s important for soccer globally as we have the best women’s soccer team in the world and we’re leaders in a lot of ways. I think it’s important to come to a resolution because I know that working together, we can amplify our efforts to make a larger impact across the world, where women’s soccer still isn’t being invested in as it could or should be. I would love to join forces with the women’s team and push FIFA to equalize not only World Cup prize money, but equalizing their investment in the game at all levels. Our vision doesn’t stop with just equal pay here in the US.”

With a firm equal compensation agreement, the US would join countries like Australia, Norway, New Zealand, England, and Brazil in addressing pay disparity between their men’s and women’s teams, although things like equitable bonuses and prize money still vary among these countries.

Keep in mind that the filings today deal with non-compensatory policies. The actual issue of equal pay remains. USWNT player spokesperson Molly Levinson said in a statement:

We are pleased that the USWNT Players have fought for – and achieved – long overdue equal working conditions. We now intend to file our appeal to the Court’s decision which does not account for the central fact in this case that women players have been paid at lesser rates than men who do the same job. We remain as committed as ever to our work to achieve the equal pay that we legally deserve. Our focus is on the future and ensuring we leave the game a better place for the next generation of women who will play for this team and this country.

Even though the full issue isn’t resolved, there is a sense now that it might be a matter of time. At least publicly, Parlow Cone seems to have moved the needle on the tone of negotiations between parties.