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Hope Solo: Soccer settlement neither fair nor adequate

The former goalie had filed an individual case for equal pay and discrimination a year before Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and other players filed a class action that led to a February settlement announcement.

LOS ANGELES (CN) — Hope Solo, the former goalkeeper of the U.S. women’s national soccer team, objected to the $22 million settlement between players and the U.S. Soccer Federation over allegations they got paid less than players on the men’s team and had to endure substandard accommodations compared to the men.

Solo filed a list of objections Tuesday in Los Angeles federal court ahead of a December hearing for final approval of the settlement. Among her grievances are that the proposed settlement doesn’t specify how the money will be divided among the current and former players and the amount of money that will go to the lawyers who represented the players.

“The class notice states (in bold print) that the settlement funds will be distributed ‘fairly’ — but it fails to provide any details or clarification of what is meant by ‘fairly,’” she said. “Essentially, the proposed settlement leaves the individual class member awards to be determined after the Court approves the proposed Settlement and after the methodology of the plan of allocation is sorted out at some time in the future.”

The former goalie, who played on the national team from 2000 through 2016, had filed an individual equal pay and discrimination case against the soccer federation in 2018, a year before a group of players including Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe filed a class action that led to the proposed settlement announced in February. She didn’t opt out of the settlement reached in the class action litigation.

Solo said the $8 million, or 36% of the total settlement, that the lawyers in the class action case are requesting is “unreasonable and disproportionate.” In the Ninth Circuit, according to Solo, 25% of a settlement is considered as the benchmark of reasonable attorney fee award.

“Solo maintains that both the settlement agreement and the class notice are ambiguous as to the scope and timing of the individual relief to the class members under the plan of allocation,” her filing states. “In direct contrast, the settlement agreement and the class notice set out in stark detail the amount and timing for the attorneys’ fees and expenses to be paid from the $22 million payment.”

She asked that the judge rejects the settlement and denies final approval.

“This historic resolution has been recognized as one of the greatest victories for equal pay," Molly Levinson, a spokeswoman for the women's national team players said in a statement. "We look forward to the Court’s final approval hearing for the settlement.”

The women’s team, winners of the 2015 and 2019 World Cup, have far outshined their male counterparts in terms of global success. Yet they have had to fight for six years to achieve equal pay, starting with a 2016 filing with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that was the precursor to their 2019 federal lawsuit filed in Los Angeles.

The women claimed U.S. Soccer had “utterly failed to promote gender equality and that the federation had justified the pay disparity by “market realities” even though the women’s team earned more profit, played more games, earned more championships and garnered bigger television audiences.

Their equal-pay claims got rebuffed, however, by a federal judge who ruled the women got paid what they had bargained for under their collective contract. That decision proved to be a setback in particular given the support the women’s team had received after the federation tried to argue in court that playing for the women’s national team required less skill, responsibility and ability than playing for the men’s national team.

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