Canada jumps in the equal pay fight, well, kind of. There’s a catch. Plus: Briana Scurry talked to me about the landmark US agreement.
The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, Monday, June 6, 2022
Canada has jumped into the Equal Pay fight in a rather dramatic way.
The men’s team refused to practice on Friday and Saturday, then refused to play Panama on Sunday at Vancouver’s BC Place. Basically, the players staged a strike over ongoing contract issues.
As part of their demands, the players they want 40% of World Cup prize money, a friends and family travel package and an “equitable structure with our women’s national team that shares the same player match fees, percentage of prize money earned at our respective FIFA World Cups and the development of a women’s domestic league.”
Rick Westhead put the team’s statement on Twitter. You can read it here.
So this is a good thing, right? The Canadian men want equal pay! Fantastic!
Not so fast. As always, the devil is in the details.
Players from the women’s team issued their own statement. Turns out the men’s proposal was for a “percentage” of World Cup prize money. They did not suggest equalizing the funds. And apparently Soccer Canada takes a lot off the top.
Here’s their statement:
This is the key line there: “The Women’s National Team will not accept an agreement that does not offer equal pay,” the players said.
The women’s team suggested that Canada Soccer’s proposal made Friday did include provisions for equalizing pay. The team said it is a start and continues to negotiate in good faith.
There’s another twist in the saga: The role of Canada Soccer Business. CSB is a company owned by Canadian Premier League owners, that represents the federation in terms of media and sponsorship deals.
Both of Canada’s teams want to see how much the federation is taking in, and where that money is going. I was on a media call with Nick Bontis, president of Canada Soccer. He was animated, to say the least. He apologized to Panama and the fans.
And he called the men’s proposal untenable.
“If we, as an association, we have the men’s team and the women’s team to take care of and nothing else, no futsal, no beach, no para, no U20, no U17, no U15 — on both sides — no coaches development programs, no referee development programs, no national championships. We could still not afford this proposal. It is untenable.”
Then this dropped today. It’s open to interpretation, but it looks like the “strike” or “work stoppage” or whatever you want to call it is over.
I guess at this point we should get out the popcorn because this is heated and it isn’t going away soon. Canada’s men have this moment, in making the field for the World Cup for the first time since 1986, for leverage.
It should ALWAYS be noted that the women’s team is far more successful (thanks Christine Sinclair!) with its Olympic gold and World Cup appearances.
In other news, and quickly: There’s a lot of speculation out there about Tobin Heath’s future. Louisville owns her rights, but it’s unlikely she’ll play there.
Laura Harvey did nothing to dispel rumors when asked about a possible move to the Reign.
“I think right now it’s all up in the air a little bit. But I think Tobin could be a fantastic player and has shown she’s a fantastic player in this league, but as of right now, no big news to share on that.”
Meredith Cash for the Insider on Pride Month while Jaelene Daniels plays for the Courage. Of note: On June 15 the Courage will wear Pride jerseys for a match at home against Angel City. Something to watch.
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IX Interview: Briana Scurry
Former U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry has a book coming out later this month. You can pre-order on Barnes and Noble here! We talked about the Equal Pay decision and what it meant to her.
Question: I wanted to kind of get your thoughts on the Equal Pay agreement.
Scurry: I am overjoyed and absolutely thrilled. And I have to say that this day obviously took a long time — for crying out loud. But I am thrilled, and I’ve said this and I’ll continue to say this — if and when you talk to Cindy Parlow, she probably will not agree or will deflect, but Cindy Parlow Cone deserves so much credit for getting this done. I mean, talk about amazing. Getting the men and the women to agree to basically partner up and then getting the US Soccer Federation board to agree to the whole shebang is nothing short of a miracle. You know, I mean, you know how it’s been all these decades?
Question: In 1995 the national team was asking for bonus pay for the Olympics. Then in 1999 after the World Cup a group of starters sat out of a game. So what is your memory about those early pushes for better treatment?
Scurry: If I’m not mistaken, the situation after the World Cup was tied to the fact that we wanted to have a victory tour, and out plan was an indoor multi-city tour in cities that hadn’t really seen us play. And the U.S. Soccer Fereration didn’t want us to do that, and said that they wouldn’t sanction it. And I think that fallout was part of that, and then after we pretty much raised a stink about it, we went ahead and did it anyway. And then after we did it the first year, then they said, `OK, well, we’ll wrap it into the collective bargaining agreement.’ And so they took it over, but they tried to stop us from doing it.
The agreements come up four years or so. So every four years, there’s some sticking point of some sort. That’s why this time, this one is intriguing because it wraps up two cycles inside of it. So that’s nice.
Question: The U.S. national team doesn’t seem like its every been content to “shut up and play.”
Scurry: I mean, the the job of being on the women’s national soccer team is twofold. The most obvious one is to have great skill and be a brilliant footballer. That’s part one. And part one-A is to be a great teammate. Part two is you have to understand that there is a standard of doing more than just being a footballer, you have to push the envelope further and further, raise the bar in terms of equality. It was so clear to all of us back then that we deserved so much more than we were getting, when we were the ones winning World Cups and Olympic Games, and bringing great notoriety to soccer in this country –making a difference and getting the country excited about the game of soccer.
Because, if you remember, nobody cared about the game back then. And we were trying to bring it forward. And we knew that sponsors like Nike, for example, who came on board with the national team system, their first foray into soccer, were most excited about the women’s players as opposed to the men’s players. They said that back then. So I was one of the original five Nike girls. We saw that we had value way above what we were getting paid. And I mean, it just didn’t smell right. There was so many things that were not equal and so obvious, and it just was not okay because we were the ones that were bringing in sponsors, getting the notoriety, making soccer mainstream in this country. All the muckety-mucks that US Soccer we’re more than excited to be on the pitch when we’re getting our gold medals put around our necks, but then in the boardroom a couple months later, they’re talking about us wanting wanting more money and that we should just be grateful that we were playing. It was almost mind bending. It was so obvious that it was wrong.
In 1995 when like the nine of us, me included, were on strike, I was putting my Olympic dream since I was eight years old on the line. Something that I wanted for so long, I was risking it by striking and not going into a camp. And that was a big deal. But what we were doing was the right thing to do. And back then, the thought was, the way to put the pressure on the federation is to have leverage, which we did because of the timing of it right before the Olympic Games.
Question: The first Olympic Games with women’s soccer!
Scurry: A very big, big platform right there. So that megaphone was enormous, right? Then if you recall, and it’s actually it was in my book, we went back and we found the quotes from the federation at the time. They were not nice. They were horrible. And that’s what they said in the paper. Imagine what they were thinking behind closed doors? And so we knew we were on the right side of it. And so it was worth it. We just pushed and pushed, and each each cycle the Old Guard would teach the new players that came in, This is how we do it. This is what we do. This is what it means to put this jersey on for this team. Now you have the Becky Sauerbrunns of the world who are fantastic leaders. But who also understand the history. She is magnificent because she understands a connection from the past and the present.
She is amazing in that way. And she understood better than anyone that dual mandate about playing great soccer, but also pushing and pushing and pushing. So in her era, it was lawsuits that were the megaphone. And that was something that they were forced — I’m sure they felt they were forced into what they had to do. But then thethe greatest thing that happened in this whole situation — and I’m such an advocate of talking about how something that seems so horrible can actually be a gift — Carlos, if you recall, said something stupid. He lost the presidency. And guess who got it? Cindy Parlow Cone. Just like she used to do when she played: She was right at the right time and the right moment and scooped it right up.
|By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
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