USWNT superstar and Reign FC attacker Megan Rapinoe has been a part of the national team for more than a decade. So U.S. Soccer’s recent move to hire lobbyists in support of its stance against equal pay for the four-time World Cup champions came as no surprise.
Rapinoe said it was “sort of in line with their behavior over all these years” in an interview with Megan Linehan of The Athletic this week.
Rapinoe calls lobbyists ‘in line with (U.S. Soccer) behavior’
The U.S. Soccer federation hired two Washington lobbying firms last week to argue the women’s national team is not underpaid. It said in a statement it wanted to ensure policymakers received “accurate information and factual numbers” given their interest in compensation.
A spokesperson for USWNT said players were “stunned and disappointed.” Rapinoe seems to have not been one of those players in the “stunned” category. The 34-year-old told The Athletic:
“I would like to be shocked, but I guess it is sort of in line with their behavior over all these years, and especially recently. From a bigger perspective, they’re obviously spending revenue, sponsorship dollars, revenue created from little kids who are playing soccer, from everyone, they’re spending that money on — in essence, this is probably a little dramatic, but in essence — trying to stop equality in the country.”
U.S. Soccer is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit designated for “fostering national or international amateur sports competition.” Rapinoe argues that the sponsor money and revenue U.S. Soccer makes is being used to make its case against paying the back-to-back world champions more. She feels it should really be used to grow the game, one aspect of the team’s lawsuit that has received less attention than an equal pay call.
In a bold move, Rapinoe endorsed U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro during remarks at last month’s victory parade in New York City. She told the crowd, which previous booed him, she thinks he’s “on the right side” and with the team.
Why is U.S. Soccer hiring lobbyists?
The Senate threw a wrench into the works when Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) introduced a bill tying the 2026 World Cup bid to federal funding.
The United States, Mexico and Canada were awarded a joint bid for the men’s tournament. Manchin is using that to his advantage. The bill would cut off federal money for hosting unless the federation “agrees to provide equitable pay.”
That’s what pushed a national team’s campaign fully into the realm of politics and elicited a call for lobbyists from the federation. Rapinoe believes it’s a primary concern and insists they’re the ones “threatening” their own bid, per The Athletic.
“I don’t know why they would need to hire a lobbyist if they aren’t discriminating, or if we’re equally paid, because then the legislation doesn’t land on them at all,” she said. “It just doesn’t matter, because then they’ll just get their funding. It’s wild.”
Even if the bill doesn’t go through, there’s an admittedly small chance FIFA pulls the bid since it doesn’t allow political interference. Global soccer’s governing body has suspended countries for it — though it has notably given rich and power-hungry China a pass.
Will the Democratic debates include equal pay?
The Democratic presidential primary debates very well could include topics on the USWNT’s fight for equal pay. It is a national story and while the office of the presidency has little involvement, an answer would reveal the candidates’ process on similar issues.
The federation was worried before last month’s debates and had one of its lobbyists reach out to at least five campaigns to “be sure all of the candidates have access to all available information.”
It was never mentioned at the two nights of debates in Detroit. The third debate is in September with a smaller field of qualifiers.
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