USWNT lawsuit: 28 players sue U.S. Soccer for gender discrimination

US women’s soccer team sues for equal pay, treatment

Athletes on the world champion U.S. Women's National Team sued the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) Friday for gender discrimination, blasting the sport's governing body for allegedly paying mere "lip service" to gender equality and dishing out markedly more pay to the decidedly less successful men's team. It was filed Friday in federal court in Los Angeles under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

All 28 members of the current U.S. squad are listed as plaintiffs in a suit that alleges discriminatory practices by the United States' federation, including unequal pay, training facilities, coaching, medical treatment and travel conditions. The U.S. women's team, now ranked number one in the world, hopes to defend the World Cup it won four years ago.

But direct comparisons of compensation between the men and women can be tricky, as The New York Times notes: "Each team has its own collective bargaining agreement with U.S. Soccer, and among the major differences are pay structure: the men receive higher bonuses when they play for the United States, but are paid only when they make the team, while the women receive guaranteed salaries supplemented by smaller match bonuses".

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The U.S. Women's National Team Players Association (USWNTPA) said in a statement it made progress during contract negotiations with U.S. Soccer in 2017 regarding compensation and working conditions but that more work needs to be done.

US Soccer did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment.

In 2017, the US women's national hockey team threatened to boycott that year's world championship but returned to the ice after settling a dispute with USA Hockey over wages and better benefits in line with their male counterparts.

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"We believe that fighting for gender equality in sports is a part of that responsibility".

The suit says it is looking to end the discriminatory practices and is also seeking punitive damages - which would likely equal millions of dollars. When the deal was announced, CNN reported that in addition to better pay and bigger bonuses, the women received better hotel and travel accommodations and would be reimbursed for the years when their per diems were less than those of the men. It also gave the players some control of certain licensing and marketing rights. We believe that we have a responsibility to act as role models. They are seeking equal pay and treatment, along with payment for lost earnings over the years. In March 2016, five players filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency that enforces equal pay law.

"This lawsuit is an effort by the plaintiffs to address those serious issues through the exercise of their individual rights", the union said in a statement, adding that it would continue to seek improvements through the labor-management and collective bargaining processes.

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The filing comes on International Women's Day - and less than three months before the Women's World Cup kicks off in France. "An equal division of revenue attributable to the MNT and WNT programs is our primary pursuit as we engage with the U.S. Soccer Federation in collective bargaining".

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