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Women's U.S. Soccer team settles gender discrimination suit for $24 million

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Members of the U.S. women's team have reached a $24 million settlement with the U.S. Soccer Federation. This comes after the players sued their employer for gender discrimination. Rachel Bachman is senior sports reporter for The Wall Street Journal. Rachel, so what are the details of this new agreement?

RACHEL BACHMAN: Well, the agreement is essentially a pledge to equalize pay for the women going forward. The - as you mentioned, the settlement is for $24 million, which the players see as a big win for their side since the federation had earlier denied that it had given the women unequal pay.

MARTINEZ: Now U.S. Soccer is going to pay men and women an equal rate going forward, including for the World Cup. Can you remind us how we got here, the whole pay issue and how this unfolded?

BACHMAN: Yes. Well, three years ago, members of the U.S. women's soccer team sued the federation, alleging gender discrimination and not only in pay but also in working conditions. Now, the women settled that portion of the case earlier. The pay portion of the case went on for quite a long time after that. But they - you know, in this really landmark agreement, they have, you know, reached an accord with U.S. Soccer to award them back pay for several years of, as they alleged, unequal pay.

MARTINEZ: Yeah, and they sued right before the 2019 World Cup, so their timing on this was intentional. And they also got a lot of support along the way. President Biden, if I'm not mistaken, Rachel, supported the women on this issue.

BACHMAN: Yes, he did. And they certainly got a lot of support from their fans, which is quite a powerful constituency. At the World Cup final in 2019 in France, the sold-out stadium chanted equal pay, and many fans across the country took up that chant at friendly games and other settings where the U.S. team appeared.

MARTINEZ: Now, in their lawsuit against U.S. Soccer, how did U.S. Soccer come across as they were arguing their side, that it had nothing to do with discrimination?

BACHMAN: Well, I would say they - the federation gained a lot of enemies along the way and really upset a lot of the women and some men who follow the team. One case in particular - there was a court filing a while back a lot of people viewed as sexist. It characterized the women as carrying less responsibility than the U.S. men's soccer team in carrying out their jobs. That argument was later pulled from the record, and the federation actually hired a new law firm to handle the lawsuit going forward.

MARTINEZ: Did U.S. Soccer, Rachel, say that women players were less skilled than men?

BACHMAN: That was the allegation in the court filing, yes. I think later the federation realized that that was a mistake, and in fact, the former president resigned in the wake of that filing.

MARTINEZ: Now, the U.S. has won the last two Women's World Cups. If they can continue that success next year in Australia under this new pay structure - I mean, how might their earnings, their earnings' future compare to the men?

BACHMAN: Well, it's important to note that this agreement is contingent on the women signing a new collective bargaining agreement. But since U.S. Soccer has pledged that, going forward, it will offer an equal rate of pay for the U.S. men and U.S. women, then if the women continue to outperform the men, they should be paid more.

MARTINEZ: Rachel Bachman of The Wall Street Journal, thank you very much.

BACHMAN: Thank you, A. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.