Report: U.S. Soccer paid lobbyists to dispel claims that the women’s team is paid less than the men

The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team made a big splash this year at the Women’s World Cup, and along with their political stances off the pitch, there was another message the players were attempting to bring attention to.

That message: Pay us the same as the men’s team.

The pay disparity issue was made all the more hurtful as the World Cup-winning women’s soccer team let it be known that they were apparently earning just a portion of what players on the men’s team currently command. The women’s team filed a lawsuit in March against the U.S. Soccer Federation, claiming gender discrimination, stating that its players were “consistently paid less money than their male counterparts.”

As it turns out, the barrage of bad press didn’t sit well with the U.S. Soccer Federation. The group decided to improve its image by hiring two lobbying firms to dispel those claims, according to news site Politico.

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A presentation by the lobbyists obtained by Politico said that the women’s team earns more than the men’s, stating that female players earned “$275,478 in average cash compensation per player, compared with $57,283 for the men’s team.”

There are also certain benefits the women’s team get that the men’s team does not, the presentation went on to say, including guaranteed salary, maternity leave, a subsidy for child care, health benefits, retirement perks and injury protection, Politico reported.

The issue at hand is that the pay disparity can’t be tackled in a direct, apples-to-apples comparison, given that the women’s team receives a base salary — the men’s team does not — and that the two teams play a different amount of games each year.

According to a representative from the women’s team, the lobbyists “cherry-picked numbers,” especially given that the two teams played a disproportionate amount of games. The women’s team played 20 games last season (with 18 wins and two draws) while the men played 11 games (with three wins, three losses and three draws).

The lobbyists, meanwhile, have apparently been visiting a number of politicians’ offices, trying to convince them of their findings, according to sources. The federation faces two potential pieces of legislation, including one proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) that would force U.S. Soccer to pay the teams equally. In the balance, should the legislation pass, would be the fact that federal funds are used for the 2026 World Cup — which is set to be hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico — and could be potentially withheld, the news site reported.

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U.S. Soccer denied trying to use its hired lobbyists to detract those bills, Politico stated. SFGATE reached out to the U.S. Soccer Federation for comment, and will update should we hear back, but the organization said in a statement to Politico that it was instead trying to give the politicians “accurate information.”

“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,” Neil Buethe, a U.S. Soccer spokesman said.

Read the full report from Politico here.

Dianne de Guzman is a Digital Senior Editor at SFGATE. Email: dianne.deguzman@sfgate.com

This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Report-US-Soccer-lobbyists-womens-team-world-cup-14288713.php.

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