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U.S. Soccer cites salaries of Alex Morgan, other stars to counter class-action move

By
Alex Butler
The U.S. Soccer Federation argues that Megan Rapinoe (L) and Alex Morgan were among four players who each earned more money than the highest-paid men's national team player in four of six years since 2014. File Photo by David Silpa/UPI
The U.S. Soccer Federation argues that Megan Rapinoe (L) and Alex Morgan were among four players who each earned more money than the highest-paid men's national team player in four of six years since 2014. File Photo by David Silpa/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 1 (UPI) -- The United States Soccer Federation has opposed the women's national team players' class action certification attempt for their equal pay lawsuit, citing the salaries of Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and other stars.

The federation filed a brief Monday night opposing class certification. The 28 players filed the original lawsuit March 8, accusing the federation of "institutionalized gender discrimination," which the players say impacted their wages and the way they train and compete. The complaint also addresses promotion, support and development for the women's games.

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"Pay should be based on performance, not gender," players' spokesperson Molly Levinson said in a statement Tuesday. "[The federation] tries to spin the undeniable fact that if men players won their games, they would be paid considerably more than the women are now.

"This is a tired argument from [the federation] that women players must work twice as hard and win every time men lose in order to try to be paid and have the same working conditions as the men. It runs counter to every American principle of equality, won't stop this case from going forward as a class action, and doesn't stand a chance in a trial."

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A trial is scheduled for May 5. The players filed their motion for class certification Sept. 11 in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. If the motion is successful, it would expand the scope of plaintiffs to include additional U.S. women's team players who are not among those listed as plaintiffs.

The class designation for the case could award players injunctive relief if they are a member of the team on the day of the final judgment or appeal. It also could provide back pay and punitive damages for players on the team at any point since Feb. 4, 2014.

Federation CFO Pinky Raina stated that proposed class representatives Rapinoe, Morgan, Carli Lloyd and Becky Sauerbrunn each earned more money than the highest-paid men's national player in four of six years between March 30, 2014, and Monday, including their National Women's Soccer League salaries. If not including the salaries, the players each still earned more money than the highest-paid men's national team player in those four years, according to the federation.

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However, the men's player's wages were affected during that period due to the team's failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. The women's team qualified for and won the 2019 World Cup, defending their 2015 title. The women's team has never failed to qualify for a World Cup and is a record four-time champion of international soccer's most-prestigious tournament.

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The federation said Lloyd, Rapinoe, Sauerbrunn and Morgan each earned more than $1.5 million during the time period, if accounting for NWSL salaries. The federation said the highest-paid men's player earned $993,967 during the same time period. If not accounting for NWSL salaries, the federation says the women's stars each earned more than $1.1 million, while the men's player made $993,967.

"Plaintiffs' motion for class certification should be denied because the proposed class representatives Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd and Becky Sauerbrunn were paid more than even the highest-earning MNT members and therefore have suffered no injury," the federation stated in the brief.

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"Plaintiffs also claim that they were subjected to discriminatory terms and conditions of employment under Title VII," the federation said. "Noticeably absent from plaintiffs' motion for class certification is any evidentiary proof showing that the proposed class representatives meet the Article III constitutional standing requirements.

"Plaintiffs cannot meet these requirements, as shown by the evidence [the federation] attaches to this opposition showing that the class representatives made more than any other relevant [men's national team] player."

The women's players also said they were denied "equal playing, training and travel conditions" as the men's national team players, citing the quality of their playing surfaces. Federation chief commercial and strategy officer Jay Berhalter said in the brief filing that the women's team played turf on four occasions since Dec. 17, 2015.

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The lawsuit will continue regardless of the court's ruling on the federation's filing. Players will still be able to participate on their own behalf if the court rules in favor of the filing.

U.S. District Judge Gary Klausner will hear the motion for class certification Oct. 21.

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