US soccer faces wage discrimination allegations

U.S. Soccer has a problem. While the men’s team might make more money, the women’s team is far more popular – and successful. This uncomfortable fact has the team and its attorneys challenging a longstanding tenet of for-profit sports. Namely, that men should make more than the ladies playing the same game.

In a recent CNN report, Jeffrey Kessler, an attorney representing the women’s team players, said: “The women’s team does the identical work as the men’s team, except they have outperformed in every way … The U.S. Soccer Federation made a profit of $16 million on the women’s team last year. It had a loss on men’s team.”

So, according to Kessler, the women are worth way more to U.S. Soccer than the guys, but they get paid much less. Seems like the ladies have a point…and their cause is gaining steam from a public relations perspective.

The complaint Kessler filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of the players is already being seen as a focus point in the ongoing debate about the national gender pay gap.

And, from a public relations point of view, it’s a near perfect standard bearer for women who want equal pay.

The team is already a national darling. They have a fan base that extends well beyond soccer fans. People from all walks of life and with a variety of interests know and love the women’s team. And for good reason. The team won the World Cup last time around, a feat the men’s team can’t even dream about in recent cycles.

And about that financial success? The World Cup championship match brought the best US rating of any soccer game ever. More viewers watched the US women win the cup than watched the World Series of the NBA Finals.

Despite their success, Kessler told CNN the women are paid considerably less than the men. In some cases, they are paid less to win than the men get for losing.

Kessler says the law only requires equal pay, but he added there could be an argument for higher – merit-based pay. In this context that argument can be seen clearly, even by those who don’t necessarily want to deal with the issue in any other sphere.

With fans and supporters already on their side along with those who can see the logic in Kessler’s argument, this case could prove to be a very strong one in advancing the message of equal pay for equal work.

Ronn Torossian is the CEO of New York based PR Agency 5WPR.

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