Heard on the Hill

Senators mount pressure on equal pay for World Cup champs

More lawmakers introduce measures pushing equal pay for U.S. women's soccer team

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., are leading an effort in the Senate to make salaries for the men’s and women’s national soccer teams equitable. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

As the U.S. soccer women’s team embarks on a whirlwind victory lap from its recent World Cup domination, more lawmakers are joining the four-time champions in calling for pay equity.

A group of senators led by Robert Menendez, Susan Collins and Dianne Feinstein introduced a resolution congratulating the team for winning the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup and asking U.S. Soccer to provide the players with pay comparable to their counterparts on the men’s team.

“They represent the best of America, our values, spirit and drive on the world’s biggest stage,” Menendez said after introducing the measure. “World Cup champions deserve to be paid like champions and I will continue fighting alongside these incredibly inspiring women as they strive for equal pay.”

In recent years, the women made only about 38 percent of what players on the men’s team did, according to the women’s team’s “institutionalized gender discrimination” lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation. For instance, the women earned $1.725 million for winning the World Cup in 2015, or about one-third of what U.S. soccer gave the men for going out in the round of 16 in the 2014 World Cup. The two sides have tentatively agreed to enter mediation.

Since defeating the Netherlands, 2-0, in the final on Sunday, the women’s team has received invites from both Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Co-captain Megan Rapinoe had already signaled her willingness to visit D.C. after the Americans knocked out France in the quarterfinals at the end of June when Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez put out some public feelers on Twitter.

After stating emphatically that she would not attended a White House ceremony honoring the team, Rapinoe said the team would be happy to accept an invite to Capitol Hill.

Judging by goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris’s Instagram feed it’s been a non-stop party for the team since landing back in the States. The women popped champagne on a yacht, danced at a pool party and on top of bars. And that’s just what they’ve done in between media appearances on “Good Morning America,” ESPN, CNN and MSNBC. And on Wednesday the team was celebrated with a ticker tape parade through New York City’s famous “Canyon of Heroes.” During the parade, many fans interrupted U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro’s speech with chants of “equal pay.” However, Cordeiro said the federation remains committed to “doing right” by investing in women’s soccer, providing “fair and equitable pay,” and encouraging FIFA to do the same.

The team’s reception hasn’t been universally positive. Several Fox News commentators and journalists have criticized co-captain Megan Rapinoe for her political outspokenness and vocal feud with President Trump.

But Congress is making more than symbolic gestures when it comes to equal pay for the team. Some members are flexing legislative authority to bring pressure to bear on the U.S. Soccer Federation.

Lawmakers have broad jurisdiction when it comes to Olympic and amateur sports organizations under the Ted Stevens Act of 1978.

For instance, West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III introduced a measure that would block federal funds supporting the 2026 men’s World Cup until the U.S. women’s team receives equal pay. The United States, Canada and Mexico are scheduled to share hosting duties for the 2026 matches as part of a joint bid.

Meanwhile, the Manufacturing, Trade and Consumer Protection subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee has been active in oversight of the Olympic movement, is currently deciding whether to weigh in on pay equity.

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