Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and House Democratic Women’s Caucus co-Chairs Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.) and Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) and Vice Chairs Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) and Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas), introduced the Even Playing Field Act to ensure equal pay, investment and working conditions for U.S national team athletes, coaches and other personnel
“Next month, the U.S. women’s national teams will take the stage at the Summer Olympics, ready to bring home the gold,” said Senator Feinstein. “Unfortunately, despite numerous and repeated successes on the field, they continue to receive less financial support than their male counterparts. It’s time to even the playing field and ensure men and women’s national teams receive equal pay and resources within their respective sports.
The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team has won four World Cups and four Olympic gold medals and is currently ranked No. 1 heading into the Summer Olympics. However, despite its success on the field, the U.S. Soccer Federation pays women team members 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, but that success has also 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 the U.S. Soccer Federation’s financial statements.
That 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 Even Playing Field Act would amend the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, which 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. The Even Playing Field Act would:
- Require the U.S. Olympic Committee to ensure female athletes are provided with wages, investment, and working conditions equitable compared to their male counterparts.
- Clarify eligibility requirements for NGBs to include demonstrating and providing investment, promotional support, working conditions, wages, stipends 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, promotional support, working conditions (including staff support and facilities and equipment), wages, stipends and other compensation.
- Mandate that each NGB submit regular reports to Congress on their compensation practices, broken out by race and gender.
“Pay discrimination is unacceptable in any job, but few things highlight this pay inequity more dramatically than the staggering differences in how our male and female athletes are paid,” said Senator Murray. “It is outrageous that even while winning more championships and gold medals than their male counterparts, our talented female athletes are still having to fight for equal pay.”
“This bill will make sure that female athletes representing our country don’t get shortchanged. But we can’t stop there – we need to make sure every single athlete, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity – gets the pay, dignity, and respect they deserve.”
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.