The union representing the players on the United States men's national team issued a strong statement in support of the U.S. women's national team, accusing the U.S. Soccer Federation of engaging in a "false narrative" about the women's pursuit of equal pay.
Twenty-eight players from the U.S. women's national team are engaged in a class-action lawsuit against the USSF alleging "institutionalized gender discrimination" toward the team. The lawsuit was filed under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
The U.S. National Soccer Team Players Association, the union representing players on the men's team, has issued statements in the past, but this statement was more detailed and blunt in its criticism of the USSF. The statement asserted that the USSF's monopolistic control over who can play for a national team has been used "as a weapon" against the players and that the discrimination against the women's team has been long-standing.
"The Federation has been working very hard to sell a false narrative to the public and even to members of Congress," the statement read. "They have been using this false narrative as a weapon against current and former members of the United States Women's National Team."
The statement added: "With our unions working together since 1999, the goal was always to secure for the women comparable gains in pay and working conditions. For more than 20 years, the Federation has resisted any concept of equal pay or basic economic fairness for the USWNT players. Historically, the Federation also refused to include in the women's CBA the same provisions as the men's with respect to air travel, hotels, etc. This is systematic gender discrimination that should have never happened."
The USSF issued a statement late Wednesday that read: "We have read the statement released today by the union representing the players of the USMNT. Our goal is to determine fair and equitable compensation for our USMNT and USWNT, while also being mindful of how and where we invest our overall financial resources so that we can continue to focus on investing in the development of our players, coaches and referees at all levels.
"We look forward to continuing our dialogue with the players' unions with the intention of finding a resolution that works for all parties."
Molly Levinson, a spokeswoman for the 28 players involved in the lawsuit against the USSF, released the following statement on behalf of women's team star Megan Rapinoe on Wednesday: "Our great hope is that 2020 will be the year of equal pay. We are grateful for the support of our male colleagues, and also for the overwhelming solidarity from millions of fans and sponsors around the world who have stood with us to fight USSF's discrimination.
"Achieving equal pay is so much bigger than our team and our playing fields -- women in workforces everywhere deserve equality now."
The USNSTPA's collective bargaining agreement expired at the end of 2018, and the union has been operating under those terms as it attempts to hash out a new agreement. Yet the USNSTPA said the CBA signed by the women in 2017 was worse than that signed by the men in 2011, when the effect of the Great Recession was still being felt.
Given the improved financial health of the USSF and of the overall economy, the USNSTPA said the numbers should be drastically increased. The statement highlighted that when USWNT players were conducting their most recent CBA negotiations, the USSF's annual sponsorship, television and licensing revenue had grown from $16 million in 2011 to more than $49 million. Annual national team revenues at that time ranged from $29 million to $55 million. The USSF had $168 million in net assets. The annual combined revenue related to the men's and women's national teams had increased to between $78 million and $104 million.
"In our estimation, the women were due at least triple what our expired deal was worth in player compensation," the USNSTPA said. "We believe the Federation should have agreed to a deal directly tied to a fair share of the revenue players generate. That is what should have happened, based on the entire history of labor negotiations involving the men and women players and the Federation.
"Now, the Federation is taking the frivolous position that the USMNT players' compensation should also stay at those 2011-2018 numbers. This is not because there is any basis for that position. Instead, it's a desperate attempt to cover-up the fact that what they did to the women in 2017 is indefensible."
The statement concluded with a call to fans to withdraw support from the USSF's sponsors until the federation "does the right thing" and gives the women a new CBA that pays a "fair share" of gate receipts, as well as revenues from television and sponsorship.
"Write to your Congressional representatives and tell them it is time to reform the Federation," the statement said. "Let the Federation know that you do not believe the false narrative they are circulating. Support the players, not the Federation."