It has now been more than a month since the U.S. women’s soccer team won the World Cup amid its fight for equal pay, propelling captain Megan Rapinoe onto the international stage.
A day after mediation efforts broke down in its lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation, Rapinoe had a strong message: The team “won’t accept anything less than equal pay,” she said.
In defiant interviews on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and “CBS This Morning,” Rapinoe and teammate Christen Press said that during negotiations, which were cut short, USSF and its president, Carlos Cordeiro, “weren’t willing to start there with equality.”
“It’s not just a word you can say, it’s something you have to stand behind,” Press said on ABC, “because on this issue there is no social equality for women without financial equality.”
“It’s very simple for us and it’s not just about us and it’s not just about this moment,” she added on CBS.
The women’s team sued the soccer federation in March, three months before the start of the World Cup, then dominated the tournament en route to defeating the Netherlands for the championship. Amid the celebration, chants of “Equal Pay! Equal Pay!” broke out in Stade de Lyon and continued through the team’s ticker-tape parade in New York and through their “Victory Tour” of nationwide exhibition matches.
The suit cited a pay discrepancy between the men’s national team, which failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, and women’s team, but also identified disparities in playing and training conditions, and team promotion.
“We show up for a game. If we win the game, if we lose the game, if we tie the game, we want to be paid equally, period,” Rapinoe said on ABC.
When the team’s legal counsel met with USSF officials, Rapinoe and Press said the federation’s position was a nonstarter. That will likely send the suit to a jury trial unless talks restart.
“These meetings sorely disappointed in the Federation’s determination to perpetuate fundamentally discriminatory workplace conditions and behavior,” players’ spokeswoman Molly Levinson said in a statement Wednesday night. “It is clear that USSF, including its Board of Directors and President Carlos Cordeiro, fully intend to continue to compensate women players less than men.”
USSF shot back that the players’ legal team “took an aggressive and ultimately unproductive approach that follows months of presenting misleading information to the public in an effort to perpetuate confusion.”
Rapinoe disagreed with that characterization, even laughing in disbelief during her appearance on CBS.
“That’s not true,” she said. “That’s definitely not true. We set the posture as players in our talks. We came ready and prepared and willing to have the conversation.”
Cordeiro met with players a week after the suit was filed to try to soothe some of the concerns before the World Cup began. He said that conversation was “open, cordial and professional,” but also said he was “surprised” by the lawsuit and players’ complaints.
The federation has argued in recent weeks that the women’s team has actually been compensated more than the men’s side over the past decade. A lobbyist for the organization approached at least five Democratic presidential candidates ahead of the party’s second debate to support the federation’s position.
Rapinoe said the ball is in USSF’s court to bring both sides back to the table.
“I think that if and when and ever they are willing to have a conversation about equal pay that starts there and goes forward, we’re always open to that,” she said.
Asked if the team was concerned a jury might rule in USSF’s favor, Press said, “I think you’re asking the wrong people what if we lose. It’s not generally how we approach things.”