It’s been over a year since the US Women’s National Team filed a pay discrimination lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation and the suit has been moving through the court system at the speed of a one-legged turtle. The suit, filed in March of 2019, claimed the USSF had discriminated against the women’s team because of their gender, resulting in unequal pay and unequal working conditions compared to their co-workers the US Men’s National Team. In May, a California judge issued a partial summary judgment, removing the pay discrimination claim from the suit, arguing that because the women’s team made more money than the men’s team in 2019 no gender-based pay discrimination took place. (This, of course, did not factor in that the women won the World Cup that year and spent more time working than the men).
But on Tuesday, the two sides announced that a settlement had been reached on the remaining portion of the suit which claimed the women had been subjected to lesser, unequal working conditions up to and including, flights, venues, support, and hotel accommodations when traveling. The Athletic reports that under the terms of the settlement, “There will be an equal number of charter flights between the men’s and women’s teams, in addition to comparable hotel budgets and an equal number (between 18-21) of support staff. There are also new guidelines on venue selection (though sealed in the filing) with requirements for both teams’ matches to be played on grass in almost all cases.”
While playing on grass may seem like a strange ask to make when stating a case for equality, the agreement to no longer schedule women’s games on artificial turf is enormous. The difference between taking a fall on turf and taking a fall on grass is a season-ending injury versus a few minutes of stoppage time in a single game. Megan Rapinoe, a named plaintiff in the lawsuit wrote about tearing her ACL in a training session on a substandard grass pitch in the lead up to a game against Trinidad and Tobago in her memoir, One Life. When the US team found out that games was going to be played on turf they refused to play over concerns of further injuring players, stating that the field Rapinoe had been injured on and the field scheduled for the game were “equally poor.”
Being allowed to play on a grass field shouldn’t be such a momentous victory and yet here we are, soccer fans salivating over the fact that we can put the turf discussion to bed. But the women’s team doesn’t rest on small victories. Following the announcement of the settlement, the players’ spokesperson Molly Levinson said in a statement that the team would be filing an appeal on the May partial summary judgment adding, “the central fact in this case [is] that women players have been paid at lesser rates than men who do the same job.”
Meanwhile, in November the USWNT had a friendly against their 2019 World Cup nemeses, the Netherlands, and won. The men’s national team also had a win in November—against Panama, a team that hasn’t made it to the finals of the World Cup *checks notes* ever. Equal work for equal pay, right?