Senators Propose Equal Pay Bill for US Athletes

The United States players hold the trophy celebrating at the end of the Women’s World Cup final soccer match between U.S. and The Netherlands at the Stade de Lyon in Decines, outside Lyon, France, on July 7, 2019. The U.S. defeated the Netherlands 2-0. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

(CN) – Every sports federation or governing body in the U.S. would be required to implement an equal pay policy for their athletes under a bill introduced Wednesday by two Democratic senators.

Equal pay has become a national talking point in the wake of the U.S. women’s national soccer team capturing their fourth World Cup trophy with a victory over the Netherlands on Sunday in Lyon, France.

Fans watching the U.S. team throughout the tournament in France have chanted “equal pay” during games.

All 28 members of the team sued their national governing body on March 8 – International Women’s Day – claiming years of gender discrimination and inequitable pay.

The U.S. Soccer Federation paid women athletes 38 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts – despite “unmatched success” on the international stage – and failed to promote gender equality in the sport on a national level, according to the team’s federal lawsuit.

But under the Athletics Fair Pay Act, proposed Wednesday by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, and Patty Murray, D-Washington, equal pay will be mandated by law, including all Olympic and amateur athletes.

The bill updates the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act to mandate that national sports bodies pay female athletes equally and to report annually to Congress on efforts to end pay discrimination.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Soccer Federation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In addition to the four World Cup trophies, the U.S. women’s national team – which was welcomed back from France by fans at a victory parade Wednesday in New York City – has also earned four Olympic gold medals and has been ranked number one in the world 10 of the past 11 years.

Feinstein said in a statement Wednesday that the bill was introduced in response to the World Cup winners’ lawsuit and that pay discrimination extends to women athletes in other sports, including hockey.

“Despite the incredible advancements made by women in sports, female athletes in sports like soccer and hockey are paid significantly less than their male counterparts,” Feinstein said. “America cheered as the women’s soccer team won a historic fourth World Cup, but our support shouldn’t end with ticker-tape parades.”

In 2016, Feinstein led an effort in the Senate to pass a resolution calling for the U.S. Soccer Federation to eliminate gender pay inequity.

Sen. Murray said in a statement that implementing equal pay would be the best way to honor the team’s achievements.

“Not only did the U.S. Women’s National Team just dominate on the world stage in front of millions of people, they also inspired an entire generation of girls and boys to work hard, follow their dreams, and most importantly—stand up for what’s right,” Sen. Murray said. “I’m thrilled the best soccer team in the world is being given a hero’s welcome home, but the only way to truly honor our National Team is to pay them what they so clearly deserve: equal pay for their far more than equal work.”

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