U.S. Women's Soccer Team Has A New Ally In Equal Pay Fight: The Men's National Team
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
The U.S. women's soccer team has just clinched their spot in the Olympics this summer in Tokyo, where they will almost certainly be gold medal contenders. Before that, though, they have another matter to juggle - their equal pay lawsuit against their employer, U.S. Soccer. Well, yesterday, the women got a new endorsement in that effort, the members of the U.S. men's soccer team. NPR's Laurel Wamsley is following this, and she's here now. Hey, Laurel.
LAUREL WAMSLEY, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.
KELLY: So the men's team put out this big statement last night about how they support the U.S. women. What exactly are they saying?
WAMSLEY: Well, it was a long and scathing statement against U.S. Soccer, almost a short labor history of negotiations with the federation. And in it, the men's national team calls on U.S. soccer to pay the women a lot more money. They say the women are due at least triple what the men have been paid in their last contract.
WAMSLEY: And a lot of the men's complaints were about the treatment of players in general. They accused U.S. Soccer of, quote, "trying to protect their monopoly, their massive revenue streams and their continued ability to exploit U.S. national team players."
KELLY: I hate to ask what took them so long.
KELLY: But what took them so long to speak up for the women?
WAMSLEY: It's a good question. The men have actually been pretty quiet about this. There haven't been tons of tweets of support and that kind of thing. They say that players on both teams have always been paid less than they deserve and that U.S. Soccer has been selling a false narrative to the public, so that's why they're speaking up now. But it's also relevant that the U.S. men's team is currently in their own contract negotiations with U.S. Soccer, so that could be a part of it.
KELLY: Reaction from the women's team?
WAMSLEY: They say they're grateful for the support. Molly Levinson is an adviser to the U.S. team to the women in their battle for this equal pay, and she told me that the men's statement builds on the huge support that the team got after their win at the World Cup last summer.
MOLLY LEVINSON: It's incredibly important and meaningful that the men's team came out so publicly in support of the equal pay effort.
WAMSLEY: And the timing is crucial because their case is going to trial in May.
KELLY: This May. Right. OK, so what do those chances look like? What is U.S. Soccer saying?
WAMSLEY: Well, they put out a statement last night that says that their goal is to determine, quote, "fair and equitable compensation," unquote, for both the men's and women's team, while balancing their need to invest in players, coaches and referees at all levels of the game. And they say they're continuing to talk with the players unions to find a resolution that works for all parties.
KELLY: And you said the equal pay lawsuit goes to trial in May. Just where does it stand? Catch us up.
WAMSLEY: Yeah, this is going to be interesting. So it's going to be in federal court in California, and we might actually see players like Megan Rapinoe testifying about working conditions and equal pay and how it compares with what the men are getting. The women's team say they want to be paid for success, the way the men's team is, when they get big bonuses for wins. And they say that they bring a lot more revenue to U.S. Soccer than the men do, which seems likely given that the men didn't even qualify for the last World Cup. But of course, U.S. Soccer probably sees things differently.
KELLY: Can we just focus for a second on the play and maybe some joy to come. We just said the women's team has qualified for the Olympics in Tokyo this summer.
WAMSLEY: Absolutely. They just clinched their ticket to it, and it should be pretty much the same team that we saw when in France last summer. And the U.S. men could be playing, too. They are - they still have to qualify. There's a tournament in Mexico next month, and we'll see if they're one of the top two teams.
KELLY: OK. So we'll see if they will be following behind to Tokyo. NPR's Laurel Walmsley reporting there. Thanks very much.
WAMSLEY: Thank you.
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