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Judge approves $24 million equal pay settlement for U.S. women's soccer team

U.S. women's soccer players settle equal pay lawsuit
U.S. women's soccer players settle equal pay lawsuit 02:19

In a big win for the U.S. women's soccer team, a Los Angeles federal judge granted preliminary approval last week for a $24 million pay discrimination settlement. The initial complaint was filed in 2016 by players who alleged that their male counterparts were being paid nearly four times more. The lawsuit followed three years later. Damages were sought under the federal Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner originally dismissed the players' claim in 2020, and ruled that during the timeframe covered in the lawsuit, the U.S. women's team had made more than their male counterparts, though the women played more games. The lawsuit continued after an appeal was granted.

Molly Levinson, the spokesperson for the players, tweeted, "We are pleased that the Court granted preliminary approval for the Historic Equal Pay Resolution today," adding, "We look forward to celebrating this hard fought victory for women and girls at the final hearing," which is slated to take place on Dec. 5. 

USA v Japan: Final - FIFA Women's World Cup 2015
The United States celebrates after winning the FIFA Women's World Cup in 2015. Dennis Grombkowski / Getty Images

Under the settlement, which was initially announced in February, $22 million will be split into amounts proposed by the players. The remaining $2 million will be placed into a fund established by the U.S. Soccer Federation, which will both benefit players after the end of their soccer careers, and go towards charitable endeavors that aim to create more opportunities for women in the sport.

The gender wage gap has been a longstanding issue, and athletics is no exception. In 2022, the U.S. Soccer Federation made history when it announced a plan for equal pay between its men's and women's teams, but many other sports continue to lag behind. 

Russia's detention of Brittney Griner has brought these questions to the forefront, with many questioning why the WNBA superstar had to seek extra work overseas during the off-season at all. 2021-2022 season data from Basketball Reference shows the average NBA player earning $5.3 million a year, while the average WNBA player earns $130,000. 

In the workforce overall, women on average earn 84% of what men earn, according to a Pew Research Center analysis from 2020. But women's pay fell further behind during the pandemic, according to Payscale's 2022 State of the Gender Pay Gap report, which shows women making 82 cents for every dollar made by a man. 

While the U.S. women's soccer team players were only granted a little over a third of the $66.7 million in back pay they initially sought, Judge Klausner wrote in his filing, "The unopposed settlement agreement accomplishes the plaintiffs' goal for litigation: equal pay."

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