U.S. Women’s Soccer Players Demand Right To Strike Over Equal Pay, As Olympics Near

The threat of a United States women’s national soccer team players’ strike looms large, just two months before they’re supposed to chase Olympic gold.

The union that represents Team USA asked U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman to ratify the players’ right to strike over alleged gender-based pay disparities between the men’s and women’s teams, MSNBC’s Alex Johnson reported Thursday, citing The Associated Press.

The players made the demand at a hearing Thursday, and it comes amid tense negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement with the U.S. Soccer Federation.

U.S. Soccer sued the players in February, hoping to ratify their existing contract and deny the players’ right to strike before the end of the year. Two months later, the players filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, accusing U.S. Soccer of wage discrimination.

While Johnson didn’t indicate when she would rule, the players could stop working before the women’s soccer competition at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro kicks off Aug. 3 if she rules in their favor.

Players last month openly considered boycotting the Olympics, depending on the outcome of their collective bargaining fight with the federation.

“We’re going to reserve our rights to do whatever we need to do to affect equal pay,” union executive director Richard Nichols told reporters after the hearing.

If labor strife derails Team USA’s pursuit of goals, there will be no winners in the immediate term. But the long-term implications of this battle will affect sports and wider society.

And keep the Olympics in perspective.

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Thumbnail photo via Michael Chow/USA TODAY Sports Images