The Women’s National Soccer Team’s Continued Fight For Gender Equality

The Women’s National Soccer Team filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation on March 8th, claiming that the USSF is in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for institutionalized gender discrimination.

Coming just months before they defend their World Cup title in France, this lawsuit brings to light the staggering equality issues that have existed in the world of sports for decades.

According to the lawsuit, during the years of 2013 to 2016, the WNST earned a maximum of $4,950 per friendly game, while the men’s team earned an average of over $13,000 for the same thing. While these numbers may have changed slightly due to a collective bargaining agreement that was reached in 2017, the pay gap is still considerable.

Related: The Entire U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Just Sued Soccer Federation for Gender Discrimination and Equal Pay

The lawsuit also alleges that the USSF is investing significantly less money into advertising for WNST games. This comes despite the fact that the WNST actually has drawn in more profits for the USSF, earned larger viewing audiences, and played more games than the men’s team. The WNST is also the most successful team in international women’s soccer, winning three world cup titles and four Olympic gold medals, compared to the men’s two gold medals and zero world cup titles.

Via U.S. Soccer on Facebook

Growing up playing soccer, these women were, and still are, my HEROES. Not only for their talent in the game, but for their strength and perseverance. This team of diverse women, some of whom are even mothers (and playing while pregnant, @Syndey Leroux), have excelled as individuals on and off the field.

Yet, they are still treated like lesser athletes than their male counterparts, something all too common in the male-dominated world of sports. There is a continued stereotype that women are inherently weaker or less able than men, holding women in physically demanding careers back significantly from earning an equal paycheck. This stereotype is even adopted by coaches, managers and owners within the U.S. soccer league.

However, as the lawsuit states professional female soccer players must “maintain competitive soccer skills, physical conditioning and overall health by undergoing rigorous training routines (endurance running, weight training, etc.) and by adhering to certain nutrition, physical therapy and other regimens. They must attend training camps and practices, participate in skills drills and play scrimmages and other practice events,” identical to the requirements of professional male soccer players.

What does this say to the young girls growing up playing soccer, and other sports right now? That no matter how hard they work, it will never be enough?

Related: SheBelieves Cup & Why the USWNT is so Important

Because the truth is, this lawsuit is not just about money or the pay gap. It is about all those girls watching the WNST win the World Cup with butterflies in their stomach, dreaming about the day they get to step on the pitch. It is about those young girls getting to see their heroes get the respect they deserve and expecting the same out of whatever career path they pursue.

Via U.S. Soccer on Facebook

The WNST seeks to encourage these dreams through their SheBelieves Cup, held every year since their 2015 World Cup win. SheBelieves is a movement that brings a message of empowerment and inspiration to young women in communities across the country. The WNST is a unique group of women with diverse backgrounds and therefore stand as examples for all women to go after their dreams and goals. And sometimes, these athletes are the first people to show women these things are possible.

They inspire women to believe. And that is what this lawsuit is really about.