The United States Women’s National Team was granted class status on Friday in its gender discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation, a major step in their legal battle which can open the case up to more than just the 28 named plaintiffs in the initial filing.
The ruling, handed down Friday by a district court judge for the Central District of California, will now allow any woman who appeared in a national team camp or game over the period specified in the lawsuit to join the class-action suit.
“The failure to provide the [USWNT] with equal working conditions is a real (not abstract) injury which affects each Plaintiff in a personal and individual way,” the decision states, in part. “Plaintiffs have also offered sufficient proof of this injury. Indeed, Plaintiffs have submitted declarations establishing that [USWNT] players were subject to discriminatory working conditions.”
The USWNT filed its lawsuit against the USSF in March, something that has only picked up attention since after they won their second straight World Cup in July. “Equal pay” chants broke out at the USWNT’s celebration following the World Cup win, and members of Congress even became involved in the battle — introducing legislation in an effort to ensure that the women’s team receives equal pay.
“This is a historic step forward in the struggle to achieve equal pay,” Molly Levinson, a spokeswoman for the players, said in a statement Friday. “We are so pleased that the court has recognized USSF’s ongoing discrimination against women players — rejecting USSF’s tired arguments that women must work twice as hard and accept lesser working conditions to get paid the same as men. We are calling on Carlos Cordeiro to lead USSF and demand an end to the unlawful discrimination against women now.”
The USSF has pushed back repeatedly against the USWNT’s claims, and officially opposed the class action filing in October.
In that filing, the USSF argued that four USWNT players in the lawsuit — Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd and Becky Sauerbrunn — were paid more than the highest-earning members of the Untied States Men’s National Team. The USWNT argued back, however, saying that if the USMNT would have played as many games as them, they would have been paid nearly four times more.
While they still have a way to go to win the legal battle, Rapinoe said Friday’s ruling was affirmation that she and the USWNT are on the right track.
“Sometimes it’s just nice for someone to say, ‘I believe you and I am validating what you’ve been saying,’ ” Rapinoe told the New York Times. “We have an internal belief in what we’re doing. But to have someone, and in this case someone very important in this case, say, ‘I believe what you’re saying,’ is very important.”
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