Women’s soccer players sue over wage gap

JUDY WOODRUFF: When the U.S. women's soccer team won the World Cup last year, there were celebrations and acclaim for their achievement.

But five members of that team have now filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. And they say U.S. soccer is practicing wage discrimination.

The filing says, even though the women's team generated $20 million more in revenue than the men's team, the women earned four times less. The top women on the team earn a salary of $72,000, plus bonuses. But the women say the gaps in bonuses and other pay is huge. Women, for example, can earn $99,000 if they win at least 20 exhibition games a year. Men could earn $263,000 for doing the same thing.

The women, including Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd, and Alex Morgan, appeared on The Today Show today.

HOPE SOLO, U.S. Women's National Team: I have been on this team a decade-and-a-half, and I have been through numerous CBA negotiations, and, honestly, not much has changed. We continue to be told we should be grateful just to have the opportunity to play professional soccer and to get paid for doing it.

And in this day and age, you know, it's about equality. It's about equal rights. It's about equal pay.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In a statement, U.S. soccer said it was disappointed. It also said later — quote — "We are committed to and engaged in negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement that addresses compensation."

We look at this dispute with a former goalie for the U.S. women's team who's played in three World Cups, including the championship team in 1999.

Briana Scurry has long spoken out on these issues, and she joins me now.

And welcome back to the program.

BRIANA SCURRY, Former Goalkeeper, U.S. Women's National Team: Thank you for having me. It's great to be here.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what is the basis for this? You and I were just talking. You were saying this goes back a while. How far back does it go?

BRIANA SCURRY: This goes back decades.

Back when I first started being on the team in the late '90s, we had this discussions with the U.S. Soccer Federation. At that time, it was about massage therapists and other things like that. And, also, getting paid at all in general back then was what — was the issue.

But now it seems, obviously, that they want equal pay to the men. But the problem is, is that U.S. soccer states oftentimes their thing is, hey, we sponsor the women, we support the women better than any other federation in the world.

They have been pushed to do that. And that is why they do that, because we often had to come to the table and do different things and try to get them to move the bar higher, like the women have done today.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We were struck — or I was struck by some of the things women spoke about today about playing on artificial turf when they said they were — that's more prone to injury in that situation.

BRIANA SCURRY: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What are some of the factors of life on the soccer circuit, if you will, for women?

BRIANA SCURRY: One of the issues that you mentioned just now was artificial turf.

The women weren't allowed to have their lawsuit go through about being on the turf. They weren't allowed to give their opinion. Even though they found companies that were willing to replace artificial turf with actual natural grass, they weren't allowed to do that. And so that's one of the issues they have had.

Over the years, you know, different things like hotel standards — the hotels aren't as nice as the men play at, and everything like that. And, of course, now is equal pay. And that is the biggest disparity that there is right now.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How long have the women players known that their pay was that different from what the men are earning?

BRIANA SCURRY: I think they have probably known for a while.

But I feel like it's not until recently that they really got to see the numbers. In the past, the issue has always been, well, we don't need to pay you the same as we pay the men because you don't make enough revenue in order to sustain that pay.

Obviously, now that is no longer the issue.

JUDY WOODRUFF: That's not the case.

BRIANA SCURRY: It is not the case anymore. That is no longer the argument that they can give.

And so now I feel that they should be allowed to ask and get equal pay.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Why do you think they are — or why are they resorting to going to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission?

Why not try to resolve this through the league, through U.S. soccer, through their own union?

BRIANA SCURRY: I am pretty much certain that they have tried. They have probably exhausted every other avenue they could, with the exception of filing a lawsuit or a complaint, with the federation.

I mean, I'm sure they have gone through several rounds of negotiations in trying to get the U.S. Soccer Federation to move in the right direction of equal pay for equal play. And they're just not moving there.

So, to be honest, they probably had their last opportunity and last chance to make this happen, and this was it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Briana Scurry, I was — again, I was struck by U.S. soccer's statement. They went, we're disappointed.

They went on to say — they said: "We are proud of the commitment we have made to building the women's game in the United States over the past 30 years."

So, and, as we said, they made a later statement where they commented on compensation. But what do you make of their reaction?

BRIANA SCURRY: It's the standard reaction they have always had.

It's unfortunate, because the bar is so low for every other federation in the world, that they can easily claim, yes, we're the leading company, we're the leading standard in that.

But the problem is, is that, over the last several decades, we have had — we, meaning myself when I played — we had to push them to a higher standard. And that's because we were winning Olympics, we were winning World Cups. And so they had to have some sort of equality for the women's team. They really couldn't ignore that.

And so they had to have a higher standard than every other country out there for the women's teams. And that's not necessarily a feather in their cap. It was more so as something that they were obligated to do.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you think is going to end up being resolved? What is your instinct?

BRIANA SCURRY: I really hope it's resolved after this lawsuit's been filed. I really hope it doesn't come down to the women's team feeling they have to strike in order to get their equal pay for equal play.

I really hope that they can come to the table again, hopefully soon, and get this all resolved, because I'm telling you right now none of those players that signed that petition and none of the players that play on the team want to be dealing with any of this right now.

They're in the process of training for Olympic Games. And that's what they should be focusing on.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Briana Scurry, who is a former goalie for the winning U.S. women's soccer team, thank you very much.

BRIANA SCURRY: Thank you.