Washington—Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) today introduced the Even Playing Field Act (S.2253) to ensure equal pay, investment and working conditions for U.S national team athletes, coaches and other personnel. Representative Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) yesterday introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
“In sport after sport, U.S. women’s national teams are achieving unprecedented success despite receiving less financial support than their male counterparts,” Senator Feinstein said. “Imagine what they could accomplish on a level playing field. Equal pay and resources should be provided to both men’s and women’s teams competing under the U.S. banner. That would send clear and positive message to the rest of the world.”
“It is unacceptable that, despite winning back-to-back World Cup titles and cementing their place in history as the world’s most successful women’s soccer team, the athletes, coaches and trainers of the U.S. Women’s National Team are still not paid equally and fairly,” Senator Shaheen said. “The Even Playing Field Act would rectify the glaring inequalities present in the pay, facilities and working conditions of the women and men who represent our nation on the world stage and enshrine the fundamental right of equal pay and resources for equal work for future generations of American athletes, which is long overdue.”
“Evening the playing field in sports is about more than just equal pay – we must also ensure that athletes, coaches, trainers, and other personnel have fair working conditions,” Senator Klobuchar said. “This legislation recognizes the importance of protecting and empowering athletes and works to ensure that all those involved in professional and amateur sports are treated fairly.”
“The pay gap holds women back in workplaces across the country, including for our female athletes, and their coaches, trainers, managers, and other support staff. Our women’s national teams are a source of national pride, and they deserve to earn, at the very least, equal pay for their work,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Congress has the ability to correct this pay gap by passing the Even Playing Field Act. There is no excuse for female athletes to earn less than their male counterparts, and I’m proud to introduce this legislation with my colleagues in the Senate. I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure that we can achieve equal pay for equal work across the country.”
“It’s an outrage that women athletes have had to fight for equal pay when the only thing they should be fighting for is the world title or a gold medal,” Representative Speier said. “The U.S. Women’s National Team – the greatest team in the sport’s history – deserves fair pay for not just equal, but superior work to their male counterparts despite being subjected to less investment and unacceptable working conditions. It’s time that the U.S. led the way in pay equality for women athletes, and women in all occupations, so that paycheck fairness finally becomes the law of the land.”
The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team has won four World Cups, including the 2015 and 2019 World Cup, and four Olympic gold medals. The team has been ranked No. 1 in the world in 10 of the past 11 years. However, despite their success on the field, the U.S. Soccer Federation pays women 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, 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 men’s national team, according to a review of the U.S. Soccer Federation’s financial statements by the Wall Street Journal.
The 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 Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act 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. If passed, the Even Playing Field Act would:
- Require the U.S. Olympic Committee to ensure female athletes are provided with wages, investment and working conditions equal to their male counterparts.
- Clarify eligibility requirements for NGBs to include demonstrating and providing investment, working conditions, wages 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, working conditions, wages, and other compensation.
- Mandate that each NGB submit regular reports to Congress on their compensation practices by race and gender.
The Even Playing Field Act is supported by the National Women’s Law Center, American Association of University Women, and National Partnership for Women and Families.
Senator Feinstein, along with Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), 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.