USWNT players file appeal in equal pay ruling

The U.S. women’s national soccer team players filed two motions in federal court on Friday that seek to allow them to immediately appeal the judge’s ruling in the pay discrimination lawsuit they filed against the U.S. Soccer Federation and to postpone a trial for claims of discrimination.

Judge R. Gary Klausner granted summary judgment one week ago in U.S. Soccer’s favor, arguing claims of the women being paid less than the men were insufficient enough for a trial. Claims of discrimination regarding charter flights and support services were allowed to go forward, with a court date tentatively scheduled for the first week of June.

Players vowed to continue fighting and a spokesperson said immediately after the judgment that they would appeal.

USWNT file motion to appeal in equal pay case

United States' Megan Rapinoe, center, celebrates team's victory with teammates after 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. US won 2:0. (AP Photo/David Vincent)
The USWNT players filed a motion to appeal the equal pay ruling in U.S. Soccer Federation's favor. (AP Photo/David Vincent)

The players filed an unopposed motion that seeks to postpone the trial, which is scheduled for June 16 in district court after being pushed back due to the COVID-19 crisis, and another motion to immediately appeal the ruling against the Equal Pay Act claims to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, ESPN’s Graham Hayes reported.

Said Molly Levinson, spokesperson for the players, in a statement late Friday via ESPN:

"The argument that women gave up a right to equal pay by accepting the best collective bargaining agreement possible in response to the federation's refusal to put equal pay on the table is not legit reason for continuing to discriminate against them. Today we are filing a motion to allow us to appeal immediately the district court's decision so that the Ninth Circuit will be able to review these claims."

Without the motion, the plaintiffs — the players — could not get an appeal to move through the courts until the rest of the lawsuit went to trial and was concluded. That could be a while, especially during the pandemic’s uncertain times. If the motion is granted, the players can appeal the decision immediately and have it sent to the Ninth Circuit.

The players asked in a motion that the June court date, if it were to go on, be pushed back a few months to a time that is “practical in light of COVID-19 restrictions.”

Push to appeal pits priority of equal pay aspect

The appeal shows the priority of the equal pay case, rather than the Title VII claims, which has been apparent since chants of “equal pay” rang out at the World Cup and during the Canyon of Heroes parade in New York.

Klausner accepted the federation’s case that the USWNT had been paid more than their USMNT counterparts during the time period given, based in no small part on the fact that the men did not qualify for their World Cup in 2018 and missed out on that financial windfall. He specifically pointed to the calculations offered by the federation showing the men’s players each made slightly less money than the women per game.

"Equal pay means paying women players the same rate for winning a game as men get paid," Levinson said in a statement. "The argument that women are paid enough if they make close to the same amount as men while winning twice as often is not equal pay. The argument that maternity leave is some sort of substitute for paying players the same rate for winning as men is not valid, not fair, nor equal."

The USMNT players association released a statement after the summary judgment that said they stand with the women’s players’ “efforts to secure equal pay.” Presumptive democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden also publicly backed the team, telling U.S. Soccer if it wasn’t going to have equal pay he would pull the 2026 World Cup funding if elected. Canada, Mexico and the U.S. won a joint bid for the tournament. And public support has been soundly in the team’s corner.

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