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The long-running effort by the U.S. women's soccer team to get paid the same amount of money as their male counterparts took a new turn this week. Now U.S. Soccer says it is proposing identical contracts for both teams. But the players aren't cheering yet, as NPR's Laurel Wamsley reports.
LAUREL WAMSLEY, BYLINE: In an interview with NPR last year, Megan Rapinoe, the face of the womens' fight for equal pay, sums up the differences in the men's and women's team contracts this way.
MEGAN RAPINOE: When you look at the possibility of money for each team, ours is vastly, vastly lower than the men.
WAMSLEY: The disparity in pay has been particularly glaring when you compare the team's successes. The U.S. won the Women's World Cup in 2019, while the men's team failed to even qualify in 2018. The top-ranked U.S. women won the bronze at the Olympics last month, while again the men didn't make it to Tokyo. Now U.S. Soccer says it's offering identical contract proposals to each team's unions. U.S. Soccer says it's offering a single pay structure for the men and women. But what's actually in these proposed contracts isn't known. Does identical mean that the women will make as much as the men were earning before? Will the men make less?
The women's team union criticized U.S. soccer's announcement as a PR stunt. The U.S. Men's Players Association did not answer a request for comment. In an interview with the Aspen Institute in July, U.S. soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone said that she and everyone at the federation is committed to equal pay. The big challenge, she says, is the huge difference FIFA pays men's and women's teams at the World Cup.
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CINDY PARLOW CONE: The vast majority of the 66 million that the women's national team is litigating over is the difference in the FIFA World Cup prize money between the Men's World Cup and the Women's World Cup. It's not something that U.S. soccer controls, and to ask us to make up that difference is just untenable and would likely bankrupt the federation.
WAMSLEY: In its statement, U.S. Soccer called on the men's and women's teams to come together to solve the World Cup prize money issue. The federation says it won't agree to contracts that don't meet that goal. Laurel Wamsley, NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF THE KNUX SONG, "CAPPUCCINO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.