Female senators ask U.S. women’s soccer team to meet

WASHINGTON ― All 25 female senators on Wednesday invited the U.S. women’s national soccer team to meet with them to talk about “challenges women face on and off the field,” which presumably includes the players’ high-profile fight for equal pay.

“In honor of your accomplishments, in recognition of your victory, and in acknowledgement of the work still before us, the bipartisan women of the Senate look forward to seeing you during your visit to the Capitol,” reads a letter to the team’s head coach, Jill Ellis, along with team captains Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan.

Shaheen’s office said the letter was delivered Thursday morning.

Fresh of their fourth World Cup victory, the U.S. women’s national soccer team has already accepted invitations to the Capitol by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Female senators are hoping to meet with them at a time when 28 members of the team are suing the U.S. Soccer Federation claiming “institutionalized gender discrimination,” a violation of the Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act.

Female soccer players’ base salary is roughly $30,000 less than their male counterparts at U.S. Soccer. And there’s a massive gap between women’s and men’s World Cup bonuses. U.S. Soccer awarded the men’s team a $5.4 million bonus after it lost in the round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup. It awarded the women’s team $1.7 million when it won the entire 2015 tournament.

The pay disparities remain despite U.S. women’s soccer games generating more total revenue than U.S. men’s games for the last three years. They’re getting more eyeballs too: The 2015 Women’s World Cup final had more views than any soccer match in U.S. history, men’s or women’s.

U.S. viewers tuned into this year’s Women’s World Cup in record numbers. Last week, Nike announced that the U.S. women’s team’s jersey is now the highest-selling soccer jersey ever sold on its website in one season.

U.S. Soccer has used several arguments to defend its pay structure, like the fact that FIFA, the international soccer governing body, offers more prize money for men’s competitions, which is true and mostly outside U.S. Soccer’s control. But there are factors within U.S. Soccer’s control: The revenues are there. It’s sitting on a budget surplus of $150 million. It could use at least some of that to pay female players more and grow the business. It is choosing not to.

Democratic lawmakers have been trying to channel the excitement of the U.S. women’s national team’s success ― and the anger over their unequal pay ― into pressuring U.S. Soccer to make changes.

More than 50 members of Congress wrote to U.S. Soccer last week demanding to know why, despite all their success, female players are still receiving inferior wages, working conditions and investment. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) introduced legislation on Tuesday that would cut off all federal funding for the men’s 2026 World Cup, which the U.S. is co-hosting, until U.S. Soccer agrees to provide equal pay to the U.S. women’s and men’s teams.

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Megan Rapinoe at the ESPY Awards
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Megan Rapinoe at the ESPY Awards
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JULY 10: (L-R) Sandra Bullock presents the Best Team award to Megan Rapinoe of the United States Women's National Soccer Team onstage during The 2019 ESPYs at Microsoft Theater on July 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
THE 2019 ESPYS PRESENTED BY CAPITAL ONE - The world's best athletes and biggest stars will join host Tracy Morgan for "The 2019 ESPYS presented by Capital One." The star-studded evening celebrates the best moments from the year in sports and will air live from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on WEDNESDAY, JULY 10 (8:00-11:00 p.m. EDT), on ABC. (Image Group LA via Getty Images) US WOMEN'S NATIONAL SOCCER TEAM
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JULY 10: Megan Rapinoe speaks onstage during The 2019 ESPYs at Microsoft Theater on July 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JULY 10: Megan Rapinoe of the United States Women's National Soccer Team and teammates accept the Best Team award onstage during The 2019 ESPYs at Microsoft Theater on July 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
THE 2019 ESPYS PRESENTED BY CAPITAL ONE - The world's best athletes and biggest stars will join host Tracy Morgan for "The 2019 ESPYS presented by Capital One." The star-studded evening celebrates the best moments from the year in sports and will air live from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on WEDNESDAY, JULY 10 (8:00-11:00 p.m. EDT), on ABC. (Image Group LA via Getty Images) US WOMEN'S NATIONAL SOCCER TEAM
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JULY 10: Megan Rapinoe of the United States Women's National Soccer Team and teammates accept the Best Team award onstage during The 2019 ESPYs at Microsoft Theater on July 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JULY 10: Megan Rapinoe attends The 2019 ESPYs at Microsoft Theater on July 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JULY 10: Megan Rapinoe and Linda Cardellini attend The 2019 ESPYs at Microsoft Theater on July 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JULY 10: (L-R) Russell Wilson, Ciara, Megan Rapinoe, and Sue Bird attend The 2019 ESPYs at Microsoft Theater on July 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JULY 10: Megan Rapinoe of the United States Women's National Soccer Team and teammates accept the Best Team award onstage during The 2019 ESPYs at Microsoft Theater on July 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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