U.S. Soccer hires lobbyists to fight USWNT players’ claim of being underpaid, report says

Players have claimed in a lawsuit that under their previous contract a player on the USWNT earned less than half what men were paid.

Rapinoe and several American players have been embroiled in an argument over equal pay with governing body U.S. Soccer for many years.   -  Getty Images

U.S. Soccer, aiming to push back against claims of an unfair pay disparity by U.S. women's national team players, has hired two Washington lobbying firms, Politico reported on Wednesday.

The players claimed in a lawsuit filed in March that under their previous contract a player on the USWNT earned in a year as little as 38 percent of what a men’s national team player made.

In the immediate aftermath of the U.S. women winning their second consecutive World Cup last month, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) cited that statistic while introducing legislation requiring U.S. Soccer to pay the men’s and women’s teams equally.

READ: U.S. Soccer says it has paid women’s national team more than men’s team

U.S. Soccer has disputed that there's a gap between what it pays and now has hired lobbying firms FBB Federal Relations and Van Ness Feldman to work on persuading lawmakers that the women’s claims aren't accurate.

“Due to the large number of requests we’ve received from policymakers since the Women’s World Cup, we are taking the proper steps to make sure that those leaders have accurate information and factual numbers that will inform them about the unmatched support and investment the U.S. Soccer Federation has provided as a leader in women’s football across the world,” U.S. Soccer spokesman Neil Buethe wrote in an email to Politico.

A spokeswoman for the players, Molly Levinson, said in a statement that they were “stunned and disappointed” U.S. Soccer “would spend sponsor dollars and revenue to advocate against laws that ensure that women are paid equally to men."

The men’s national team also weighed in against U.S. Soccer’s lobbying efforts, calling them “disappointing but not surprising.”

ALSO READ: Men’s Union: 'Women’s World Cup champs right to pursue equal pay'

Neither lobbying firm has registered to lobby for U.S. Soccer, as required by law within 45 days of being hired, but Buethe said they would be doing so.

Meantime, Politico obtained a presentation it said was circulated "in meetings late last month" that put an emphasis on the non-monetary compensation female players receive beyond a guaranteed salary, such as maternity leave, a nanny subsidy, health benefits, retirement perks and injury protection that players on the men's team don't get.

The presentation states that U.S. women’s team players were paid far more last year than men’s team players, earning $275,478 in average cash compensation per player compared with $57,283 for the men’s team.

However, both the women's and men's team players say it's difficult to compare compensation because of a variety of factors, including how many games each team plays, and characterized as misleading U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro's assertion in a recent open letter that U.S. Soccer had paid the women’s team more than the men’s team over the past decade.

Noting the U.S. women's Olympic hockey team's fight for higher pay, Feinstein and Murray also introduced a separate bill last month mandating equal pay for women’s national and Olympic teams.

Buethe wrote in an email to Politico that the lobbyists hired by U.S. Soccer aren’t trying to derail any of the legislation, only to provide accurate information about how much the men’s and women’s teams are paid.

However, according to Politico, U.S. Soccer attorneys and lobbyists have met with lawmakers and raised the question of whether the pending legislation might threaten the U.S.'s ability to co-host the men's 2026 World Cup because it threatens to withdraw federal dollars if pay equity isn't achieved.

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