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Shaheen, Women Senators Introduce Bill Requiring Equal Pay, Resources for U.S. National Teams

(Washington, DC) Yesterday, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) joined U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in introducing the Even Playing Field Act to ensure equal pay, investment and working conditions for U.S. national team athletes, coaches and other personnel. Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) yesterday introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team has won four World Cups, including the 2015 and 2019 World Cup, and four Olympic gold medals. The team has been ranked No. 1 in the world in 10 of the past 11 years. However, despite their success on the field, the U.S. Soccer Federation pays women just 38 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts.

Not only does the women’s national team outperform the men on the field, their success has led to an increase in ticket sales. From 2016 to 2018, women’s games generated $50.8 million in revenue compared to $49.9 million for the men’s national team, according to an audit of U.S. Soccer Federation’s financial statements.

The pay gap is not unique to women’s soccer. In 2017, the U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team received a pay raise from its governing body, USA Hockey, only after the team threatened to boycott a major competition.

The Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act outlines eligibility requirements and general duties of national governing bodies (NGBs), such as U.S. Soccer, that are selected by the U.S. Olympic Committee. If passed, the Even Playing Field Act would: 

  • Require the U.S. Olympic Committee to ensure female athletes are provided with wages, investment and working conditions equal to their male counterparts.
  • Clarify eligibility requirements for NGBs to include demonstrating and providing investment, working conditions, wages and other compensation for amateur athletes, coaches, trainers, managers, administrators and officials that is free from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age or national origin.
  • Stipulate that duties of NGBs include providing equitable support and encouragement for participation by women, including investment, working conditions, wages, and other compensation.
  • Mandate that each NGB submit regular reports to Congress on their compensation practices by race and gender. 

The Even Playing Field Act is supported by the National Women’s Law Center, American Association of University Women, and National Partnership for Women and Families. 

“It is unacceptable that, despite winning back-to-back World Cup titles and cementing their place in history as the world’s most successful women’s soccer team, the athletes, coaches and trainers of the U.S. Women’s National Team are still not paid equally and fairly,” Senator Shaheen said. “The Even Playing Field Act would rectify the glaring inequalities present in the pay, facilities and working conditions of the women and men who represent our nation on the world stage and enshrine the fundamental right of equal pay and resources for equal work for future generations of American athletes, which is long overdue.”

Shaheen joined letters signed by the majority of Senate Democrats in March 2019 and June 2016 calling on the U.S. Soccer Federation to provide equal pay to its athletes. In addition, after the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team’s World Cup victory earlier this month, Shaheen led a letter on behalf of the bipartisan women of the Senate extending an invitation to meet with the women of the Senate during the team’s upcoming visit to the U.S. Capitol to discuss the challenges women face on and off the field.

In 2016, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution calling for the U.S. Soccer Federation to immediately eliminate gender pay inequity and treat all athletes with the same respect and dignity. Despite that resolution and other efforts, the pay gap has persisted.