'Systematic gender discrimination' - USMNT players' association backs USWNT's fight for equal pay in blast at U.S. Soccer

The United States National Soccer Team Players Association (USNSTPA), the organization that represents the players that comprise the U.S. men's national team, has hit out at U.S. Soccer's "monopoly" while calling for bans to boycott sponsors in support of the U.S. women's national team's fight for equal pay.

The USWNT's players filed a lawsuit against U.S. Soccer last year calling for equal pay, with the suit alleging that U.S. Soccer "continues to practice gender-based discrimination against its champion female employees on the WNT in comparison to its less successful male employees on the MNT."

In August, shortly after the USWNT claimed the Women's World Cup title, U.S. Soccer hired two lobbying firms to combat the lawsuit after legislation was introduced in Congress that would require both the men's and women's teams to be paid equally.

And, on Wednesday, the organization that represents the men released a hard-hitting statement defending the USWNT while criticizing U.S. Soccer' responses to the calls for equal pay and subsequent lawsuit.

"The federation has been working very hard to sell a false narrative to the public and even to members of Congress," the statement reads. "They have been using this false narrative as a weapon against current and former members of the United States Women’s National Team.

"Other than releasing statements of support, we have appropriately left it to the USWNT players and their representatives to pursue their grievances. It is our view that despite the best efforts of USWNT players and their representatives, the federation has had some success in convincing people of the federation’s false narrative.

"By coming forward to explain the situation, the USNSTPA hopes to create a better understanding and perhaps help bring about a resolution.

"The US Soccer Federation, like all US National Governing Bodies for Olympic, Paralympic, or Pan American Games sports, has monopoly control over which athletes will be allowed to represent the United States."

The statement goes on to allege that U.S. Soccer uses that monopoly as "a weapon" in negotiations, with the USNSTPA stating that it is not uncommon for players to play under expired Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) for up to two years.

The statement also details the history of the organization, which was founded in 1995 as the USMNT became the first American national team in any sport to form a labor organization.

In addition, the statement alleges that neither the men nor the women are paid fair value. The USNTSPA states that U.S. Soccer has regularly said that the organization's "financial future was uncertain" in an effort to suppress player wages.

"The US Women normally negotiated after the men," the statement reads. "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."

USWNT Women's World Cup 2019

The USNTSPA added:  "With the women going first, negotiating a new deal in 2017, the expectation was for dramatic increases in their compensation, comparable to the federation’s triple-digit increases in revenue.

"Instead, the women’s 2017-2021 CBA did not bring the women equality in working conditions and the women did not benefit from the dramatic increase in revenue associated with the USWNT. In fact, in 2017 the federation insisted the women sign a 2017-2021 deal that was worse financially than the men’s soon-to-expire 2011-2018 CBA that had been negotiated six years earlier."

The statement adds that the USWNT faces unique pressures from the federation. U.S. Soccer controls the NWSL as well as the USWNT, giving the federation power over players' careers for both club and country. U.S. Soccer subsidizes the NWSL, and the league would not exist without its financial support. MLS, meanwhile, is self-sufficient. 

As the NWSL has battled to get off the ground as a professional league, U.S. Soccer were a "monopolist controlling their two primary potential employers and aware that a work stoppage could destroy the third effort at a women’s professional soccer league in the United States".

As a result, the USNTSPA states that the USWNT should be paid "significantly more" than the recently expired USMNT deal and that a deal should be reached based on a share of the amount of revenue generated by players.

Until that point, the USNTSPA called on fans to boycott the federation and its sponsors until a new deal is struck for the USWNT.

"It is time for this to stop. The courts, juries, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, Congress, new federation leadership, or a combination of all five need to reform the federation," the statement reads.

"The exploitation of athletes to generate revenues that are siphoned off to benefit owners of for-profit leagues and teams, federation personnel with massive above-market salaries and bonuses, and self-promoting all-expenses-paid federation 'volunteers' must end.

"The practice of paying multi-million dollar bonuses to personnel associated with the federation for running various federation-controlled tournaments in the United States should be investigated and outlawed. Soccer is perhaps the most corrupt sport in the world. We do not want a US Soccer Federation that behaves like FIFA.

"What can you do? Tell the federation’s sponsors you will not support them until the federation starts doing the right thing and gives the women a new CBA that pays a fair share of the gate receipts and that television and sponsorship revenue to the players.

"Write to your Congressional representatives and tell them it is time to reform the federation. Let the federation know that you do not believe the false narrative they are circulating. Support the players, not the federation."