United States' Crystal Dunn, center, and Australia's Kyah Simon battle for the ball during the women's bronze medal soccer match at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021.
( Andre Penner
Melissa Harris-Perry: It's The Takeaway. I'm Melissa Harris-Perry. In 2019 after the US Women's Soccer Team won the World Cup Championship against Netherlands, the players took to the fields and celebrated their victory, as the crowd cheered for the team's Fourth World Cup when cheers turned to chants for equal pay.
Melissa Harris-Perry: The team first filed a Federal Equal Pay complaint in 2016, followed by a gender discrimination suit against the US Soccer Federation in March of 2019. Last month, the US Women's Soccer Team finally won a $24 million settlement. Here's star Megan Rapinoe reacting to the win.
Megan Rapinoe: It's a really amazing day. I think we're going to look back on this day and say this is the moment that US Soccer changed for the better.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Let's talk with Kelsey Trainor, entertainment attorney and VP of Business Affairs at Gaming Society. Welcome to The Takeaway, Kelsey.
Kelsey Trainor: Thanks for having me.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Let's start with some history about the lawsuit. Just walk us through how we got to that moment.
Kelsey Trainor: Yes. As you mentioned, it started in 2016. This has been going on for a very long time. In March of 2019, 28 national team players filed this lawsuit for claims for the Equal Pay Act and Title VII for pay discrimination. Then very recently, obviously, it settled for $24 million, but in between then, in May of 2020, the judge dismissed the Equal Pay portion of the US Women's National Team lawsuit. It was on appeal, which then led to this $24 million settlement.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Now, is the settlement or the suit in the settlement primarily about compensation, or there are other aspects here?
Kelsey Trainor: There's other aspects. In December of 2020, the team actually settled the working condition claims. That had to do with hotel accommodations, travel, working conditions, what fields they were playing on. That was part of the case that was still ongoing, that was settled on the end of 2020. This portion of the settlement really just involved the Equal Pay aspect, so it's $24 million.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Obviously, we heard some excitement therefrom Rapinoe, but Hope Solo, the former goalkeeper tweeted that the settlement was heartbreaking and infuriating because of a contingency clause around collective bargaining. I'm wondering, should we be happy? Should we be infuriated? What should we be feeling here?
Kelsey Trainor: I think it's a little bit of both. I think there was such a sigh of relief that this has been going on for so long. Now, the original lawsuit sought $67 million in back pay. $24 million isn't exactly that massive celebration that we were all looking for, but at the end of the day, it's a very good amount of money, and probably what most of us expected the settlement if there was one to be around. On the other side of that, you have to remember that Hope Solo has her own lawsuit, a solo lawsuit, if you will, against US Soccer.
I agree to an extent with her that it's a settlement, you did settle for maybe less than what you're seeking, but at the end of the day, these women were fighting for so long and they're elite athletes. They were doing all of this on top of winning World Cups. I think it's a little bit of both excitement, and maybe a tiny bit of disappointment.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Help us to understand what $24 million is, like put that in perspective. For any individual person, $24 million is like, "I've won the lottery, let's go buy the big house," but help us understand what $24 million means in this context.
Kelsey Trainor: Yes. It's $22 million in back pay. I believe it's been paid out over four years. It's to the 28 national team players that were a member of the class of that lawsuit. When you break that down, it's still a good amount of money, but not that big flashy $22 million. Then $2 million of that goes to post-career charity fund money. Each player can apply for up to $50,000 from that future fund.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Okay, and then what are next steps? That's some reparative action for those who were in the class from, when you say back pay, it's also a really helpful way of thinking about who's affected, who is directly repaired by some of this, but going forward, what does it mean?
Kelsey Trainor: US Soccer and the US Women's National Team agreed to an equal rate of pay going forward for friendlies and tournaments. That still doesn't mean that the FIFA money which has always been the huge contention is going to be equal, but I think there's going to be a more united front between US Soccer and the US Women's National Team to pressure FIFA versus it being only the US Women's National Team. Obviously, this agreement is contingent on the new collective bargaining agreements between US Soccer and the men and US Soccer and the women being ratified. There's a deadline for that, which is March 31 of this year.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Okay. Can you game that out for us a bit?
Kelsey Trainor: Yes. The men have been playing on expired CBA for a bit, as well as the women. The men are going to have to essentially agree to some sort of pay cuts if there's going to be this equal prize money going forward. My understanding is that the US Women's National Team and US Soccer would not have gone on national television and international press tour touting this settlement if they weren't close on an agreement to ratify the new collective bargaining agreements.
But I'm hearing behind the scenes that the only hiccup may potentially be the men's side coming to an agreement with US Soccer, whereas I think the women are potentially agreed to most of the terms.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Now, there was just a US Soccer presidential election on March 5th, what were the results?
Kelsey Trainor: Cindy Parlow Cone, who took over for Carlos Cordeiro who she ran against, won the election. It was pretty narrow. She won the election for a four-year term. This was a big part, I think of why it was so important to get this settlement done recently. You had that election, you had a March 7th court hearing in the case, and then the March 31st CBA deadline. Cindy Parlow Cone, she's a former player herself, she's been pretty busy. She appointed former US Attorney Sally Yates to investigate reports of sexual and workplace misconduct in the NWSL.
She also very recently announced an eight-year deal with Turner Sports for the English Language Rights to broadcast the games. There was a lot going on here and the US Women's National Team players came out against having Carlos Cordeiro as US president. They endorsed Cindy Parlow Cone. You have to remember that Carlos was in charge of US Soccer. He was president of US Soccer when US Soccer released legal filings that essentially said that the US Women's National Team and the US Women's players were unequal in skill and effort, therefore inferior to the men's national team and therefore deserve less pay.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Tell us about Bet On Women Campaign.
Kelsey Trainor: Oh, yes. The Bet On Women Campaign is awesome. It's the WNBPA. It's their trademark and gaming society, we use it as a way to propel women's sports forward. The gaming industry is a massive industry. There's not necessarily the equitable lines and odds in the women's sports space and so Bet On Women, it encompasses a number of things, but it's really about equalizing and getting more women and women's sports into the betting and gaming space.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Kelsey Trainor is entertainment attorney and VP of Business Affairs at Gaming Society. Thanks so much for joining us today.
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