International Women’s Day has been monumental in soccer in the United States.
The 28 current U.S. women’s national team players sued the U.S. Soccer Federation on Friday in U.S. District Court, claiming the sport’s governing body in this country has discriminated against them by paying them less than their U.S. men’s counterparts and subjecting them to inferior working conditions, despite the fact they do the same job, according to The New York Times’ Andrew Das. They’re seeking back pay, damages and other relief, which might in total amount to millions of dollars if the court rules in the players’ favor.
The players believe their lawsuit is part of a wider fight for equal pay and against gender-based discrimination in sports and society.
“We very much believe it is our responsibility not only for our team and for future U.S. players, but for players around the world — and frankly women all around the world — to feel like they have an ally in standing up for themselves, and fighting for what they believe in, and fighting for what they deserve and for what they feel like they have earned,” midfielder Megan Rapinoe told the New York Times.
The lawsuit also marks a renewal of a years-old legal battle the players and federation have waged against each other. Five leading players in 2016 filed a gender-discrimination complaint against the federation to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and some openly discussed boycotting the 2016 Summer Olympics in the months leading up to the tournament. The boycott never materialized, and the parties eased some of the tensions in a subsequent collective bargaining contract.
However, the fundamental issue of equal pay has remained in place, prompting the USWNT players to take legal action.
The class-action lawsuit comes just three months before they’ll begin their world-championship defense at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.