The IX: Soccer Mondays with Annie M. Peterson for February 24, 2020
U.S. Soccer lawsuit developments, explained — The summary judgement doc drop reveals lots of details behind the Equal Pay case — Plus some must-read links
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Lots of docs
There’s lots and lots to unpack here as we examine the documents dumped in the U.S. women’s national team case last week. So I think I’m going to go off-script and just talk about the case this week. I’ll add some links to key documents within the post and then links to different stories about the issue at the bottom.
First off, let me say that I’m not sure how much soccer fans are following the blow-by-blow in this case. These documents seemed significant to me, but I’m in the WoSo Bubble. I’d be interested in hearing from you all as to how much you are paying attention to the legal maneuvers before the trial. My DMs are open on Twitter, or you can reach me always at email@example.com.
This is a fairly complex case and way above my pay grade. I have a couple of great lawyers that I’ve been able to tap to explain things to me in elementary school terms. So I’m going to try to outline some of those points here.
First of all, I want to point out on the outset of everything when it comes to this case: The U.S. Soccer Federation is a non-profit organization with a stated purpose of growing the game of soccer for everyone. I want to get that out of the way because a lot of talk surrounding the issue focuses on how much the teams generate in revenue, which isn’t necessarily the point.
Second of all, and let’s get this fact out of the way at the onset, too. Yes, some players from the women’s team were paid more than their male counterparts in recent years. But the women played in more matches and were far more successful than the men. Had the men had similar success, they would have been paid significantly more.
And finally, a point that is also often lost: The U.S. Soccer Federation does not have anything to do with FIFA World Cup prize money. So that’s something to remember, too, because I often hear people bring up prize money in explaining away the women’s case.
Probably the most significant among the documents dropped on Thursday night were the collective bargaining agreements for both the men’s and women’s teams. These had not been made public before, although Caitlin Murray had many of the details in her book about the national team, which you should definitely get if you haven’t. It’s here.
Here’s a significant tidbit: The women’s agreement includes a no-strike, no-lockout clause through 2021. So the Olympics are happening.
Here are a few other takeaways that stick out:
US soccer claims that a judgement in favor of the players would retroactively rework the CBA that the players already agreed to.
There is a potential for the women to be awarded more in punitive damages that the $66-plus million cited in reports.
What I want to get to is Carli Lloyd’s deposition, an excerpt of which you can read here. It’s interesting that folks keep bringing up the question about whether a women’s team could beat a men’s team, or, more disappointing yet, a high school/junior team.
As many of us know who have posted on Twitter or Facebook about the case, it’s only a matter of time before a random commenter weighs in with how the women couldn’t beat a U-15 boys team. These comments are based on a 2017 post by CBS Sports that had a misleading headline that was spread by folks who clearly don’t know a thing about soccer. It’s been passed around by those right-wing trolls that just hate the U.S. women’s team because, well, we all know why.
Federation lawyers peppered Lloyd with questions about whether the U.S. women could beat the German men’s team. They also questioned her about training with an under-18 team. Julie Ertz does too, apparently.
It was during this line of questioning that Lloyd was asked if the women’s team would be competitive against the MNT.
“Shall we fight it out to see who wins and then get paid more?” Lloyd asked in kind. Which is probably the most Carli Lloyd reply ever.
It’s fairly clear where this was headed: The men are paid more because they are bigger, stronger and faster. It’s not the same job because the men’s game is bigger stronger and faster.
If you take that argument to its logical conclusion, the women’s game is inferior. And unless women can compete with men, they don’t deserve the same pay.
Yeah, maybe not the look you want to push. Especially with crowds in Lyon chanting “Equal Pay!” after the World Cup final, at the massive parade in Manhattan, and a number of other federations around the world pledging more equitable pay for their teams.
Attorneys for the players pressed former USSF President Sunil Gulati about his position on the differences between the men’s and women’s game in his deposition here.
Gulati attempted to convey that the level of achievement was based on a series of factors, including the strength of opponents and competition.
The federation’s stronger argument is to stick with the CBAs. The women asked for different things than the men, this is true. In the end, they agreed to a CBA that was structured differently than the pay-to-play model adopted by the men’s team.
The federation says that it did offer the women a pay-to-play option in its last contract negotiations, but lawyers for the players say it was not equal to the men’s.
As for the fact that players on the women’s team earned more over the same period, the judge has already indicated that discrimination isn’t determined by total remuneration, rather the rate of pay for the work performed.
The federation lays out the CBA provisions for the salaries and benefits the women receive, arguing that the men’s team placed greater importance on bonuses while the women emphasized guaranteed pay. And here it ties in its claim that women’s players were essentially paid more.
Given my read of the documents and the opinions of various pundits, there is really no guessing how Judge Gary Klausner will rule on this matter, or whether we’re destined for trial. There’s a hearing in Los Angeles on March 30. We’ll know more then.
In the meantime, here’s Jill Ellis’ deposition.
MORE TAKES ON THE CASE AND OTHER LINKS!
Reminder: First, the underlined words are the links. Second. CLICK these, even if you’ve already read them. Clicks = Attention from editors, producers and webmasters. Third, if you want to push out stuff you’ve written or read, email me! firstname.lastname@example.org.
My AP colleague Ron Blum took a look at the depositions. He also handled the breaking news on the case Thursday night. (since I was at Fast Eddie’s last ever high school hoops game. There were tears).
Meg Linehan took a look at the case for The Athletic after a lot of coffee.
Read Michael McCann’s take for Sports Illustrated, because he’s a lawyer.
Andrew Das with his story for The New York Times.
Steven Goff looks at the issue for the Washington Post.
Caitlin Murray weighs in for Yahoo Sports.
Jeff Kassouf writes about the case for The Equalizer.
Kim McCauley with pointed analysis here for SB Nation.
Stephanie Yang with an explainer for SB Nation.
Even People magazine weighed in, here.
And hey, there were a few important non-lawsuit stories out there, too. Wanted to highlight John Halloran’s wonderful story on goalkeeper Phallon Tullis-Joyce.
Also for The Equalizer, Jeff Kassouf did a story that shouldn’t be missed on the Reign controversy.
Hey, the CONCACAF U-20 championship is going on, here’s a handy primer from U.S. Soccer.
Hope Solo is eligible for the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame.
The Guardian has this handy recap of the weekend’s Women’s Super League action.
Tweet of the Week
Here’s to capitalism!