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Katie Braman
Professor Elias
History 297 - Contextualization Analysis
November 1, 2019

“You’ve come a long way baby,” was a slogan used by the Phillip Morris cigarette

company to market Virginia Slims cigarettes to women in the late 1960’s. The women’s lib

movement adopted the catch phrase to signify the strides women were making in creating

political and social change in American society. Over fifty years later, women are struggling to

feel equal to their male counterparts in many aspects of everyday life. Progress has been slow

and steady, but women still have a long way to go. One particular issue that has made headlines

is the disparity in pay between professional male and female athletes in just about every sport.

While there have been some trailblazers who have drawn attention to the inequity, the U.S.

National Women’s Soccer Team and current World Cup Champions have taken a stand and are

poised to fight for justice and pay equity not only for themselves as individual athletes, but also

for their team, the game of women’s soccer, and all professional female athletes.

When one looks at the accomplishments of the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, the facts are

compelling. Since 1991, the first year of the first Women’s World Cup soccer tournament, the

U.S. has four championship titles. That is pretty amazing since the tournament is only held

every four years. In addition, the team has won four gold medals and one silver medal in the six

Olympic games where women’s soccer was an event. Worth mentioning is the fact that their

male counterparts, the U.S. National Men’s team failed to qualify for the FIFA Men’s World

Cup in 2018. According to an article in ​The Guardian​, “after winning the World Cup in 2015, it

was revealed that the US women’s team were paid a quarter of what the men earned” (Alvarez).

To add insult to injury, the women’s team generated $20 million more than the men that year.
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What is at stake is fair pay and fair treatment for the members of the U.S. Women’s

Soccer Team. At the heart of the issue is institutionalized gender discrimination that not only

affects the female athletes paychecks, but also where they play, how often the play, how they

train, what type of medical care and coaching they receive, and even how they travel to matches.

The lawsuit that the group of players have filed against the United States Soccer Federation

(USSF) spells out the following allegations:

1) The WNT has achieved unmatched success in international soccer leading to

substantial profits for the USSF.

2) The WNT is required to perform the same job duties that require equal skill, effort

and responsibilities performed under similar working conditions as the Men’s

National Team (MNT) players.

3) The USSF has a policy and practice of discriminating against members of the

WNT, on the basis of gender by paying them less than similarly situated MNT

players.

4) The USSF has a policy and practice of discriminating against members of the

WNT on the basis of gender by providing them with less favorable terms and

conditions of employment than similarly situated MNT players.

To summarize the main points of the lawsuit, the women players alleges that USSF provides

unequal pay, unequal playing, training, and travel conditions, and unequal promotion for games

compared to their male counterparts. Legally speaking, the lawsuit says “there have been

violations of the Equal Pay Act, which prohibits wage discrimination between men and women

who perform similar jobs, and the Title VII of the Civil Right Act of 1964, which prohibits
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employers from discriminating aginst employees based on sex, race, color, national origin and

religion” (lawsuit, 2019). Initially, the complaint indicated the women wanted a jury trial, but

they were open to mediation. When the two sides met in August to attempt mediation, the

meeting failed to resolve issues and therefore a trial will be scheduled in 2020.

Given the popularity and well-known nature of the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, the

controversy about the gender pay gap garners a great deal of attention in most sectors of society.

The importance and outcome of the lawsuit will impact not only the professional female soccer

players, but also women athletes across all professional sports and women throughout the

workforce in general. The support for the team’s fight for equal pay has been overwhelming,

remarkable, and widespread. Just to name a few, fellow athletes like tennis star Serena

Williams and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, television celebrities like talk

show host Ellen Degeneres and producer Shonda Rhimes, and politicians like presidential

candidate Kamala Harris and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have all posted on social

media in an effort to support the WNT. In the end, the impact and outcome of the lawsuit will be

far reaching beyond the soccer field as the team uses its influence to truly seek equality for ALL

women.

It is important to note that gender equality is not a new fight for women. According to a

New York Times​ article by Sarah Mervosh and Christine Caron (2019), there have been many

trailblazers who played key roles in bringing attention to gender equality starting with Kathrine

Switzer who was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon in 1967 even though women were

not allowed to run it. Undoubtedly, feminist tennis champion Billie Jean King broke barriers in

1973 for women players to earn equal prize money to their male counterparts in the major
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tournaments like the U.S. Open. In 2006, another tennis player Venus Williams took a stand

about Wimbledon’s lack of doing what was right and fair by bringing attention to the huge

discrepancy in pay between the mens and womens champions. The following year Wimbledon

awarded the same prize money to both winners who happened to be Roger Federer and Venus

Williams! For women the journey for equality has been difficult, long, and persistent.

While the twenty-eight women named in the lawsuit are the key players in this historical

moment, everyone is a stakeholder. To hold companies, corporations, organizations, and

institutions accountable for treating individuals equally and fairly is the critical element. Like

the World Cup finals, many are watching and weighing in on this situation. Hopefully, the

outcome will provide inspiration and momentum for not only women, but all populations to seek

fair and equal treatment throughout all sectors of society.


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Works Cited

Abrams, Olivia. “Why Female Athletes Earn Less Than Men Across Most Sports.” ​Forbes,​ 23
June 2019.
Alex Morgan v. United State Soccer Federation, Inc., Case No. 2:19-cv-01717. United States
District Court. 2019. Web. 30 Oct. 2019.
Alvarez, Anaya. “I Thought the Main Issue in Women’s Sports Was Equal Pay. I Was Wrong.”
The Guardian,​ 9 May 2019.
Bachan, Rachel. “What is the Women’s World Cup Worth? Not Even FIFA Knows.” ​The Wall
Street Journal,​ 24 September 2019.
Das, Andrew. “U.S. Soccer Sponsor Enters Equal Pay Fight on Women’s Side.”​ New York
Times​,
14 July 2019.
Gowdy, Kristin. “Fight for Equal Pay in Women’s Sports.” ​Women’s Sports Foundation,​ 2 April,
2019. www.womenssportsfoundation.org/education/fight-equal-pay-womens-sports/
Accessed 30 Oct 2019.
Hays, Graham. “USWNT lawsuit: What We Know and What It Means Going Forward.” ​ESPN,​
8 March 2019.
Kelly, Meg. “Are U.S. Women’s Soccer Players Really Earning Less Than Men?” W​ashington
Post,​ 8 July 2019.
McCarriston, Shanna. “USWNT equal pay lawsuit: Everything You Need to Know About the
Women’s World Cup Champions’ Legal Fight.” ​CBS Sports​, 11 July 2019.
Mervosh, Sarahm and Caron, Christina. “Eight Times Women in Sports Fought for Equality.”
The New York Times​, 8 March 2019.
Tracy, Marc, Crouse, Karen, and Futterman, Matthew. “U.S. Women's Team Takes a Stand as
Gender Disparities Remain Widespread.” ​The New York Times​, 8 March 2019.
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