A rare win for advocates of gender pay equality

The USWNT’s case captured “a lot of the history of sexism and discrimination that women have faced for a century in sports,” says Southern Utah University’s Berri. It resonated with other professional athletes fighting similar battles, too: Canada’s female soccer team, women’s National Basketball Association players, and the US women’s hockey team all reached out to USWNT in recent years for advice negotiating pay and working conditions.

Still, the settlement announced today is a rare achievement that may be hard to replicate across other sports leagues, where gender pay gaps persist and decision-makers are still mostly men. For female athletes that don’t have much leverage, “the only way they can negotiate is in the court of public opinion,” Berri says. USWNT had more bargaining power because they’ve grown their fan base and audience over the last few years, “and even in that circumstance, it was really really difficult.”

Still, soccer star Megan Rapinoe expressed hope today that the USWNT has spurred other professional athletes to successfully lobby for equal pay. The US women’s national hockey team, for example, received a pay raise in 2017 by threatening to boycott the world championships.

“It seems like everywhere you look, here we are performing well beyond just the constraints of our sport,” Rapinoe said on the Today show. “We are really in the midst of a an incredible turning point in women’s sports.”

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