Grant Wahl explains one of the key issues at the center of the U.S. women's national team's wage dispute vs. U.S. Soccer.
Should the amount of revenue generation produced by the women have an influence on how much they’re paid? Both U.S. Soccer and the U.S. women's national team's representatives have provided answers to the pertinent question amid the women's players' wage discrimination complaint.
U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said yes, revenue generation should matter in a market economy. U.S. women’s players lawyer Jeffrey Kessler said it’s a hard question to answer. Legally, he said, revenue generation has some relevance. But from the standpoint of equality, Kessler argues that women should be paid the same as the men irrespective of revenues. He cites the same argument used on behalf of men in figure skating, where the women produce more revenue than the men but prize money is distributed equally to “do the right thing” according to those in charge (SI.com verified Kessler's facts with figure-skating authorities).
When it comes to revenue generation itself, there are some useful ways of looking at it.
Did the U.S. women generate more revenue than the men while winning the World Cup in 2015? Yes. Is it a fairer apples-to-apples comparison to look at revenues over four-year World Cup cycles with the men? Yes.
But even then, the two sides are in dispute.
U.S. Soccer says the men produced nearly double the revenue of the women over a four-year cycle. But a look at U.S. Soccer’s financial report shows the gap between the U.S. men and women is much closer when you look at the four years from 2014 to ’17. Both sides will bring in their own economists in the EEOC case. In the end, bringing the wage discrimination complaint was a brilliant tactic by the U.S. women to get the best offer possible from U.S. Soccer in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement.
There's also the matter of a revealed clause from the USWNT's 2006 collective bargaining agreement, published by former U.S. star Julie Foudy this week on ESPN.com. It was designed to reward the U.S. women’s team if their compensation-to-revenues ratio was ever better in a calendar year than that of the U.S. men. The exact wording, per Foudy, was this:
"If in any calendar year, the ratio of aggregate compensation of women's national team players to the aggregate revenue from all women's national team games (including all games in U.S. Soccer promoted women's tournaments) is less than the ratio of the aggregate compensation of the men's national team players compensation to the aggregate revenue from all men's national team games (including all games in U.S. Soccer promoted men's tournaments), then U.S. Soccer will make a lump sum payment to the women's national team player pool to make the ratios equal."
The headline on Foudy’s story was: "Why Isn’t the USWNT Using Its Fair-Pay Clause?" The answer: The clause does exist, according to U.S. Soccer, which adds that the U.S. women have not been able to trigger it yet.
With things piling on top of one another, it's time to take stock of a tough week, overall, for U.S. Soccer.
First came the wage discrimination complaint. Then came Abby Wambach’s arrest for a DUII in Oregon. And then came tweets from U.S. men’s players Alejandro Bedoya and Jozy Altidore making jokes and evoking past incidents in response to Wambach’s arrest. Wambach issued a public apology for her arrest, full stop, and obviously the men’s tweets weren’t a good look.
But there is now more public tension between the U.S. men’s and women’s teams than I have seen since the year after the last time the U.S. women won the World Cup in 1999.
Here’s a suggestion on how to start mending fences: Wambach should finally apologize for her December comments implying that the men’s team’s dual nationals weren’t fully American—which clearly has bothered players on the men’s team—and Altidore and Bedoya should apologize for their tweets.