Washington—Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) today introduced the Athletics Fair Pay Act, a bill to require equal pay and compensation for all Olympic and amateur athletes.
The bill is in response to a discrimination lawsuit brought by members of the U.S. women’s national soccer team against the U.S. Soccer Federation. Despite their success on the field, according to the players the U.S. Soccer Federation pays women just 38 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts.
The pay gap is not unique to women’s soccer. In 2017, the U.S. women’s national ice hockey team received a pay raise from its governing body, USA Hockey, only after the team threatened to boycott a major competition.
“Despite the incredible advancements made by women in sports, female athletes in sports like soccer and hockey are paid significantly less than their male counterparts,” said Senator Feinstein. “America cheered as the women’s soccer team won a historic fourth World Cup, but our support shouldn’t end with ticker-tape parades. All women should receive fair and equal pay, including our women athletes in every sport.”
“Not only did the U.S. Women’s National Team just dominate on the world stage in front of millions of people, they also inspired an entire generation of girls and boys to work hard, follow their dreams, and most importantly—stand up for what’s right,” said Senator Murray. “I’m thrilled the best soccer team in the world is are being given a hero’s welcome home, but the only way to truly honor our National Team is to pay them what they so clearly deserve: equal pay for their far more than equal work. I’m proud to introduce this legislation and I’m going to keep fighting to ensure every woman—on and off the field—is paid fairly for her work.”
The bill updates the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act to mandate that the national governing bodies each Olympic sport pay female athletes fairly and equally. It also requires the national governing bodies to provide annual reports to Congress on amateur athlete pay to ensure they’re complying with their equal pay obligations.
The U.S. women’s national team has won four World Cups, including the 2015 and 2019 World Cup, and four Olympic gold medals. The team has been ranked number one in the world 10 of the past 11 years.
Not only do 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 U.S. men’s national team, according to a review of the U.S. Soccer Federation’s financial statements by the Wall Street Journal.
The senators led 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 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.