Former USMNT player Jermaine Jones criticizes Alex Morgan, women's soccer and equal pay fight

Not everyone is on board with the U.S. women’s national team’s “equal pay” campaign. Jermaine Jones, a USMNT midfielder from 2010-17, made as much clear in an exclusive video posted by pop culture site toofab on Wednesday and recirculated by USA Today.

And boy, did he have a lot to say. Jones warned the “screaming” players that it could all “backfire real quick” while simultaneously criticizing Alex Morgan, the National Women’s Soccer League and in a way, women’s sports in general.

“I appreciate everything they’re doing. I think they’re doing an amazing job,” Jones said at an event in Los Angeles. “Of course, we as men we know it’s tougher to win a World Cup than the girls.”

There’s a lot to unpack in Jones’ statements, starting with his use of “girls” when he really means “women.”

United States' Jermaine Jones plays against Mexico during a World Cup qualifying soccer match Friday, Nov. 11, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
Jermaine Jones warned USWNT players, specifically Alex Morgan, the fight for equal pay could 'backfire.' (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Jones: Morgan ‘can say that you suck’ in NWSL

The biggest difficulty in comparing the USWNT versus the USMNT is that the women, on top of bonuses, have their NWSL salaries paid by the U.S. Soccer Federation. The men are paid by the league they play in and receive only bonuses from U.S. Soccer beginning with making the national team.

Jones took particular issue with this and referenced Orlando Pride forward Alex Morgan by name. Morgan and Megan Rapinoe have been the faces of the equal pay movement and Morgan’s name leads the lawsuit against the U.S Soccer Federation.

"Some players play MLS, they make the men’s national team [and] they make less than a woman that gets a salary cap through the national team not through her club team. So that’s a big difference ... We have to play games and win games. She has the whole season paid and plays in a league where you can say that you suck.

“They are making more than some of the guys, but then they scream out and say, 'We need more money.' It can backfire real quick."

According to a report by Caitlin Murray at The Guardian, USWNT players are paid $100,000 plus an additional $62,500 to $67,500 for playing in the NWSL. Paying that salary does two things: keeps players competitive for national matches and grows the game, and therefore the talent pool, in the U.S. And the top dogs, such as Morgan, are fighting for the entire sport and players in it.

The USMNT players are paid by their club teams with MLS salaries ranging from $70,000 to $6 million, per Stars and Stripes FC. Taking Jones’ example in a World Cup year, and using Murray’s bonus for qualifying for a World Cup, a men’s player making the lowest salary would earn slightly less ($175,695 to $200,000) than the women. But a good amount of MLS players make in excess of $100,000.

ORLANDO, FL - JULY 20: Orlando Pride forward Alex Morgan (13) is presented with a plaque before during the soccer match between Sky Blue FC and the Orlando Pride on July 20, 2019, at Exploria Stadium in Orlando FL. (Photo by Joe Petro/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Orlando Pride forward Alex Morgan (pictured) was criticized by former USMNT midfielder Jermaine Jones for wanting more money from U.S. Soccer. (Photo by Joe Petro/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

‘Big difference’ between men’s, women’s sports

The toofab reporter asked Jones, “What are the women doing right that the men are doing wrong?” in terms of success at the World Cup. The women are back-to-back champions while the man failed to reach the tournament in 2018.

Jones said “you cannot see it that way” and cited the oft-used example of the women’s team playing the FC Dallas U-15 boys academy in a 5-2 loss. (Jones incorrectly stated they lost, 6-1, to the L.A. Galaxy boys team.)

The match was actually a scrimmage described as a more a “structured practice,” according to CBS Sports, for the benefit of developing the boys squad and for head coach Jill Ellis to move players around, build chemistry and improve for World Cup qualifying. It’s also not really what he was asked and better answers could include that the USWNT had a better coach, more talent and better tactics to advance through matches.

It led into why men and women shouldn’t make equal salaries:

“We of course have to respect and own what they’re doing and have to support them that they get kind of paid. But give me one country where the girls get paid the same as the men. There’s not one ... There is just no country. And that’s the point.”

Yes. That is the point. That’s the entire point people have been making for years now in far more professions than just soccer. The USWNT is a leader for all of the sport and moving toward a more equitable pay structure could be the catalyst to change the rest of the world. Just because that’s the way it’s always been done isn’t a reason to continue doing it in the future.

The Netherlands, the 2019 World Cup runner-up, reached an agreement with its federation for an equal pay structure ahead of the World Cup. The Norwegian team reached a deal in 2017.

And the women aren’t only fighting for equal pay. The lawsuit is based on different treatment by the federation for its men’s and women’s squads and investing in growing the sport at the youth level. That’s an issue that plagues the men’s side as well.

Jones: USMNT ‘way bigger’ than USWNT

Jones referenced multiple times one has to respect what the women are doing and appreciate it. But he also got caught up in which way to lean in terms of popularity and platform.

He started by quoting what he believed to be something a former president said.

“‘If we shut down the men’s team there will be no U.S. soccer.’ That’s the way it is. We just have a bigger platform in general. So if you look at numbers, the girls team have more like consistent fans for the fan base but if you look at the numbers in general the men’s team is way bigger.”

Later he notes that USWNT players have more loyal support and more Instagram followers, which he thinks shows more of the younger generation are following them. The viewership numbers for the World Cup broke records across the world.

The USMNT released a statement Tuesday standing with the USWNT and taking issue with a factsheet by U.S. Soccer about compensation. The USMNT noted the “profound impact on the American sports landscape” the women’s team had and stated they deserved equal pay and pursing a legal remedy.

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