United States women’s football team’s fight for equal pay featured in new ‘LFG’ documentary

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Megan Rapinoe and her teammates on the United States National Women’s Football Team filed an equal pay complaint in 2019.
Image credit: Sean Fine

Updated June 29, 2021, 4:59 p.m. ET

As the United States’ national women’s soccer team clinched a victory at the 2019 World Cup, fans erupted into an unexpected chant: “Equal pay. Equal salary. Equal pay. “

With four World Cup titles and four Olympic gold medals, the USWNT is one of the most accomplished and successful teams in the history of international sport. But despite their overwhelming dominance, the team is paid much less than the men’s national team. Per regular season game, the players of the women’s team earn 89 cents per dollar of their male counterparts, and men earn almost double bonus for World Cup appearances.

A few months before his World Cup victory, the USWNT waged its fight for fair compensation to its employers. More than 20 players have filed a sex discrimination complaint against the American Football Federation, seeking fair pay and treatment compared to the men’s team. But in May 2020, the majority of the lawsuit was dismissed by federal judges who argued that players were paid according to the terms of the contracts they had signed.

This legal battle is recounted in the new documentary by filmmakers Andrea Nix Fine and Sean Fine titled LFG – short for the rallying cry of the team. Nix Fine says LFG is a story that will resonate with a lot of women out there.

“They’re going to be like, ‘Oh, I’ve been there, I felt that’ – the lack of worth, the lack of respect,” she says. Nix Fine hopes telling the story of players like Megan Rapinoe and Jessica McDonald will dispel misconceptions about the trial and shine a light on the national struggle for financial fairness.

NPR’s Ailsa Chang spoke to Andrea Nix Fine and 2019 World Cup champion Jessica McDonald about multiple jobs as a single mom, pushing to sign the deal with the American Football Federation and the current call of the team. Listen in the audio player above and read on for the highlights of their conversation.


Interview highlights

On working multiple jobs to make ends meet

Jessica McDonald: A lot of us female athletes have multiple jobs, and that’s been sort of [accepted] in our society. But once you see it, I feel like it’s so much more revealing; I show people that I barely had a meal in a day because I’m literally going to [team] practice giving a public speech to going out and training the kids to another appearance – and all in one day.

Especially since I am a single mother, which I manage on my own with my child, if you are a parent you know how difficult it is. Even if you are in a partnership, it is difficult. And so for me to be able to do whatever I can, I’m grateful, but it’s also very revealing for everyone and shows how unfair the pay really is when I’m here to work multiple jobs in the middle of my season.

On the Federal District Court’s argument that the players had consciously accepted the terms of their contracts

Mcdonalds : When the initial agreement has been signed, [as a new player] I have heard different things, obviously, from my side with my team and those who work with us. It’s almost like we’re intimidated into these contracts we’re in right now.

Andrea Nix Good: We had spoken to a number of players and Jessica, I think you were all so stunned – like, I think, everyone – how the judge could come to that conclusion with this argument. And I think the bottom line, which is really fundamentally the reason the call goes on, is that it’s not the fact that, “Hey, you got a deal, you took it on. , now you don’t like it. The answer that really needs to be considered: Has US Soccer ever offered the women’s team the same deal, line by line? And the answer is no. This is where the discrimination occurs. In fact, they were never offered this deal, and it is the deal that they continue to fight for, and that is why there is still [an] to appeal.

On the lack of interviews with the American Football Federation

No fine: We extended the opportunity for the Federation to participate in an on-camera interview, and from the start of the film, we made it known that they had chosen to decline. We accepted and engaged in conversations with them off-camera to make sure we fully understood their position on the equal pay dispute. And we spent two years researching court records and public documents and [collective bargaining] The agreements.

We approached them and gave them ample time to participate. It was their decision, and they refused. And we found it to be unfortunate.

On the impact of the USWNT’s fight for equal pay beyond this case

Mcdonalds : Right now, it’s something historic; it is a movement. It’s a movement for – I always say it, but – all the little girls who one day want to be in our shoes because they are going to deserve it. All the women who put in the time, who make an effort and who kick in their work. There is [no one] more deserving than, if not equal, than their male counterparts receive. And so at the end of the day, it’s all about fairness, fairness for everyone. And so the women over there, we’re tough guys and we’re going to keep fighting.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To learn more, visit https://www.npr.org.



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