What is US soccer’s equal pay dispute and what did Megan Rapinoe say to Congress about it?

President Joe Biden today will mark Equal Pay Day with players from the US women’s national team, including star Megan Rapinoe.

Rapinoe, who had previously said she would never visit the White House while Donald Trump was in office, will meet with Biden and first lady Dr Jill Biden alongside teammate Margaret Purce to discuss equal pay.

Equal Pay Day is on a different day every year to symbolise how far into the year the average woman must work extra, compared to what the average man earns in the previous year.

On Wednesday, Rapinoe testified before the House Oversight Committee in a hearing focused on pay inequality between men and women and the proposals Democrats are putting forward to close the gender pay gap.

The US team captain has long advocated for equal pay for female athletes and used the national team’s World Cup run and victory to draw attention to the unequal distribution of prize money and resources between the men’s and women’s tournaments and national teams.

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Rapinoe and her fellow teammates are currently in a battle for equal work conditions with the US Soccer Federation.

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What is the US soccer women’s team’s lawsuit about?

28 players alleged that the US Soccer Federation engages in “institutionalised gender discrimination” towards the team. The lawsuit also claimed that the discrimination “has caused, contributed to, and perpetuated gender-based pay disparities” against the players in “nearly every aspect of their employment”.

Rapinoe and other members of the US team agreed in December to settle part of their lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation over claims of unequal working conditions. The players requested the same conditions as the US men’s team in travel, accommodation, the right to play on grass rather than artificial turf, and staffing.

However, the women’s team are still appealing a decision on wage discriminations under the Equal Pay Act after a federal judge surprisingly threw out their case in May last year.

What did Rapinoe say to Congress?

In her opening statement, Rapinoe told the committee: “I am here today because I know first-hand that this is true. We are told in this country that if you just work hard and continue to achieve – you will be rewarded, fairly. It’s the promise of the American dream. But that promise has not been for everyone.

“The United States women’s national team has won four World Cup championships and four Olympic gold medals on behalf of our country. We have filled stadiums, broken viewing records, and sold-out jerseys, all popular metrics by which we are judged.

“Yet despite all of this, we are still paid less than men – for each trophy, of which there are many, each win, each tie, each time we play. Less.”

Rapinoe went on to discuss how she did not understand how pay inequality was still a problem in US Soccer.

She said: “I feel like honestly we’ve done everything. You want stadiums filled? We filled them. You want role models for your kids, for your boys, and your girls, and your little trans kids? We have that.”

Where do the US men’s team stand?

The US men’s team issued a statement of support in February last year which said that the US Soccer Federation “has been working very hard to sell a false narrative to the public, and even to members of Congress”.

Rapinoe thanked the men’s team for its support and said she is “very confident of a positive outcome”.

Rapinoe testified to Congress on Wednesday as part of the team’s continued efforts and will visit the White House for an event with Joe and Jill Biden marking Equal Pay Day.

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