The ugly side of the "beautiful game."
The United States women's soccer team is, undeniably, the best in the world.
Their matches fill stadiums, their players are household names, and they've won three FIFA World Cups and four Olympic championships since 1991. Last year alone, this team generated $20 million more in revenue than the U.S. men's team did.
So, naturally, they're only paid about 1/4 of what male players get. Yes, you read that correctly.
I understand if you need to take a minute to yell into your rage pillow. Go ahead. I'll wait.
Because these women WIN for a living, they aren’t going to accept this unfair treatment.
This week, five members of the women's team — on behalf of all their fellow players — filed a wage-discrimination action with the national Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against their bosses at the U.S. Soccer Federation.
It’s not the first time the women’s team has gone up against their employers.
Back in January, the players submitted a new deal to their employers through their union — one that had, according to their lawyer Jeffrey Kessler, "equal pay for equal work as its guiding principle." U.S. Soccer disagreed on the timing, saying their current deal was binding until December 31, 2016. Now both parties are in court, with the U.S. Soccer Federation suing the players to abide by the past contract — the one that pays them about four times less than players on the men's team — until after the Rio Olympics.
Even if we look past the dispute on contract timing, it is hard to have much empathy for U.S. Soccer.
Women in the United States are already subject to unfair wage discrimination. On average among full-time workers, American women make just 79 cents for every dollar an American man makes. What women’s soccer players are facing is so much worse than that.
Let’s say that for every time Landon Donovan, a star player on the U.S. men’s team, scores a goal, he gets a dollar.
The current wage rules would mean that when Megan Rapinoe, a star on the U.S. women’s team, scores, she only gets paid 25 cents.
In this scenario, for her to get close to the national average for women’s pay, she has to score three times. And to be paid equal to what a male player gets for one goal, she has to score four.
(FYI: It was exhausting just writing that out. Imagine what it’s like living it every single game.)
"I've been on this team for a decade and a half, and I've been through numerous CBA negotiations, and honestly, not much has changed," Hope Solo told "Today."
"We continue to be told we should be grateful just to have the opportunity to play professional soccer, to get paid for doing it."
"In this day and age, it's about equality. It's about equal rights. It's about equal pay. We're pushing for that. We believe now the time is right because we believe it's our responsibility for women's sports and specifically for women's soccer to do whatever it takes to push for equal pay and equal rights. And to be treated with respect."
Soccer is an intense physically demanding sport. The women who play it professionally have to be wickedly fit, quick-thinking team players who can run nonstop for hours without vomiting.
They deserve our admiration, our ticket dollars, and every trophy and accolade they earn. And if their employers still don't agree they deserve at least as much as men, then those employers deserve every bit of criticism these women kick their way.