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Megan Rapinoe, Christen Press make TV show rounds confident in equal pay case in court

Cassandra Negley
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The morning after mediation talks broke down between the U.S. women’s national team and the U.S. Soccer Federation, USWNT stars Megan Rapinoe and Christen Press made the rounds of every major network’s talk shows Thursday in New York City.

Rapinoe and Press explained nearly verbatim to hosts for NBC’s The Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America and CBS This Morning why it disintegrated within a day. There were no solid terms around what comes next, but if it goes to litigation the stars said they are confident in their case.

United States' Megan Rapinoe, left, is replaced by United States' Christen Press during the Women's World Cup final soccer match between US and The Netherlands at the Stade de Lyon in Decines, outside Lyon, France, Sunday, July 7, 2019. (AP Photo/David Vincent)
Megan Rapinoe, left, and Christen Press explained why equal pay talks broke down one day into negotiations with US Soccer. (AP Photo/David Vincent)

Players: Concept of equal pay wasn’t there

Rapinoe and Press said the sticking point in mediation was the “concept” of equal pay. The USWNT sued the federation in March alleging “systemic gender-based pay discrimination” and cited lower bonuses than the men. The fight for equal pay has led the push through the World Cup title, though it’s not the only aspect of the lawsuit.

“I think, unfortunately, it was just the concept of paying us equally,” Press told the Today Show “We never even got past that. We were very hopeful in our discussions with them that they were going to take our proposals and our position seriously, which is simply that every game that we play we get compensated the same way a man would for playing or winning that game. and it broke down right there.”

Rapinoe said there’s room for different structures in the CBA between the men’s and women’s national teams, but she “doesn’t think it’s an unrealistic ask” for the payouts for wins and losses to be the same.

In a statement to Yahoo Sports late Wednesday, U.S. Soccer spokesman Neil Buethe said it was the players who were unwilling to work toward a resolution.

“Unfortunately, instead of allowing mediation to proceed in a considerate manner, plaintiffs’ counsel took an aggressive and ultimately unproductive approach that follows months of presenting misleading information to the public in an effort to perpetuate confusion.”

The players said this was untrue and Press told CBS This Morning it’s about more than this moment.

“We’re trying to do this on behalf of women everywhere. To be treated respectfully and paid lawfully. And the issue is just equality.”

Rapinoe no longer backs U.S. Soccer president

At the ticker-tape parade ceremony after the Women’s World Cup victory, Rapinoe took the opportunity to voice support for U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro in front of millions. She said at the parade:

“I’m going to stick my neck out there a little bit. I’m going to endorse Carlos. I think he’s with us. I think he’s on the right side of things. I think he’s going to make things right. He’s proven every day since he’s been in office for us that he’s with us.”

She told CBS This Morning she is no longer of that belief.

“In this moment I don’t. No. I think that there’s a long way to go for us to feel that way about him, about the board of directors, about the federation as a whole ... in this moment, no they didn’t do nearly enough.”

The team has plenty of support, including from the USMNT, but there are still those who do not side with the idea of equal pay. Atlanta United head coach Frank de Boer called the notion “ridiculous” with The Guardian this week. He based his stance on popularity and sponsorship and the players would like to see the federation go beyond what’s expected.

"I think we would like to see U.S. Soccer take a stance of leadership on this issue," Press said. "We have an amazing opportunity to change something that has systematically affected women everywhere. And it could be such a positive thing for us to come together and change outdated and honestly wrong opinions like that."

Others, such as former USMNT member Jermaine Jones, have also built arguments around the fact there is no other country where women are paid the same as men.

What happens next with USWNT lawsuit?

Press and Rapinoe each said the team believes it has a solid case based on a simple principle that is already law.

“I don’t think anyone wants to go to litigation, but with that said we’re very confident in our case,” Press told the Today Show.

“Just from a social perspective, from leaving the game in a better place for women everywhere, if it’s not equal there’s no deal we can get to. This isn’t bargaining. You either value us or you don’t.”

And if they do lose that case?

“I think you’re asking the wrong people, ‘what if you lose?’” Press delivered in a closing response to Good Morning America.

The duo were asked if the team would boycott the 2020 Olympics, to which neither answered before they were asked a follow-up. Press noted that this fight has been doing on almost since the USWNT was first instituted.

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