Keeper’s fight for equal pay continues – Sportico.com

She was the first to sue US Soccer over alleged pay discrimination, and while her former teammates recently reached a tentative settlement in their much more famous case – the Morgan vs. US Footballr Class Action—His case still stands.

And Hope Solo, the former USWNT goaltender and two-time Olympic gold medalist, vows to go all the way. Along with attorney Rich Nichols, Solo recently met Sportico for an exclusive interview. This is the first time Solo has been asked about her case since she filed it in 2018.

“Sometimes you feel like you’re banging your head against a brick wall,” Solo confessed, “trying to get the facts out.”

These “facts,” Solo argues, center on a “fight for equal pay for the next generation” of female soccer players. Solo insists that the only way to ensure the fight is won is to win in court and set a legal precedent.

Last month, the former Solo teammates, managed by Morgan, reached an interim settlement with US Soccer in their case, a week before Turner Sports won the rights to broadcast the US national team’s home competitions from 2023 to 2030. If certain conditions are met, more information below—US Soccer will pay players $22 million and spend an additional $2 million on post-career planning and other initiatives. The players had asked for more than $66 million but lost at the district court level and faced uncertain prospects in their appeal. A fundamental legal hurdle for the players is that their own union negotiated the pay rules that have been attacked.

Although $24 million is a sizable figure, Solo charges that it nevertheless reflects a “fraction of the money of what is owed in back pay” and, more importantly, is not “real money. equal pay”. She points out that this salary would not be a sensible definition of “equal pay” when judged “against men for the games they played”.

Some of the settlement terms, Solo claims, “are very, very, very difficult, if not impossible, to meet.” They imply that US Soccer will enter into separate labor agreements with the unions for women‘s and men’s teams that will pay female and male players ‘equal pay’ in the future, including with regard to the redistribution of the money paid. by FIFA for the payment of World Cup prize money, where there is currently a discrepancy of more than $30 million between the salary of men’s and women’s teams. U.S. District Judge Gary Klausner must also approve the settlement and the accompanying class action costs owed to attorneys.

Nichols says the equalization of FIFA World Cup prize money, either by FIFA changing its method of calculation or by men’s and women’s teams agreeing to a method of redistribution, “will never happen”. Nichols argues there is no indication that FIFA intends to make such a change, or that the two teams are in agreement on equalizing World Cup money.

He also expresses doubts that the USWNT and US Soccer will decide which revenue streams would include “equal pay rate, which he says is the “decisive issue in their case.” Nichols points out that while “equal pay rate” may make sense from an aspirational perspective – players on both teams are paid an equal rate – the details of what that phrase means in practice are much more contentious.

He insists that there is continuing uncertainty over whether performance bonuses will be included in the determination of equal pay rates. If the equal pay of female players is mainly based on the fact that they win, and therefore that they obtain performance bonuses, their remuneration is not necessarily “equal” to that of men. Nichols goes so far as to say that players “win peanuts” if these bonuses are removed.

Nichols also takes issue with the portrayal of the $22 million as back pay. “They settled the lawsuit for $22 million; whether or not there is equal pay is still up in the air. He further warns that some of the millions will go to lawyers.

For Solo and Nichols, the legal battle began in 2016, when Solo was still on the team and Nichols led the players’ union as executive director and general counsel. In March of that year, Solo, along with bandmates Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn, filed a discrimination complaint with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

“For the first time in history,” Nichols recalls, “professional athletes essentially sued their current employer for violations of the Equal Pay Act and Title 7 [of the 1964 Civil Rights Act]. It was a bold move. Nichols estimates that the female players earned about 75% less than the males, “despite the fact that they performed much better than the males and brought in more income than the males.”

Initially, the EEOC, which Nichols says “sometimes takes 18 months before it even acknowledges you’ve filed,” seemed very engaged. The EEOC “jumped on it right away,” calling players just five days after filing. An EEOC official, Nichols claims, “told us this case was going to be high on the investigation list, and then we’re going to get to it and hopefully have some kind of decision by the end of 2016.”

The calendar changed dramatically in November, when Donald Trump was elected president.

Nichols then heard from the EEOC that “the EEOC’s most progressive lawyers and investigators” were about to leave. Efforts to quickly resolve the problem before the arrival of the new administration failed. Nichols said the players hadn’t heard from the agency for about 15 months. And when EEOC officials finally reached out, “they basically told us that, ‘Hey, we’re new. We don’t really know what happened in the past with this case. We don’t we’re not going to go back and find out.

The inaction led Solo and Nichols to seek a letter of right to sue the EEOC, which paved the way for him to sue US Soccer in August 2018. Solo and Nichols say they reached out to his former teammates and their attorneys to they join his lawsuit, but found no interest. Nichols says he has always kept everyone updated on the progress of the case. He also asked the other players and their lawyers for a courtesy: notice if they file their own complaint.

Nichols says his request for notice was technically met, but not constructively. He received a text 15 minutes before the Morgan case, structured as a class action, was filed in March 2019.

While Solo against American football received almost no media attention, Morgan v. United States became a cause celebre, with former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, among other national figures involved in the 2020 presidential election, praising the players.

“It’s not boring,” Solo said of the other attention-grabbing case. “That’s the wrong word.”

Instead, she finds it frustrating, “because there are a lot of players who will be left out of the fight,” including, she says, current players who might not get “equal pay” if that term does not mean what he has. been portrayed as.

Solo, who is married to retired NFL player Jerramy Stevens, sees a mainstream media that “wants to gloss over” the facts and instinctively “wants to celebrate” the class action, due to the social themes it raises in a society impacted by calls for gender and racial equality.

“Nobody really wants to see what’s going on,” she said. She argues that there is a reluctance to “lift the veil” and look at the details. To be sure, details about compensation, pay, and related job metrics were points of contention in the litigation, with the parties proposing starkly different accounting and differing methods of calculation.

Solo concedes that what has become a six-year legal battle – and that matters – “has been exhausting”. After the settlement was announced, some players told Solo that “they just wanted it done and done with it.” Solo insists that players must be prepared to keep the battle going; otherwise, they play directly into the hands of US Soccer.

“American football,” she warns, “waits until we get tired so we just throw in the towel.”

Solo, who recently launched a podcast on SiriusXM, says she has no plans to back down. His trial is before Judge James Donato of the Northern District of California (San Francisco). Other players, she says, were always welcome.

“I expect it to take a long time,” Solo predicts.

For a video of the entire interview, click here.

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