As Team USA performs on the world stage at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand introduced the Even Playing Field Act of 2021 to ensure our national athletes, coaches, and personnel receive equal pay, investment, and working conditions.
“The average woman has to work fifteen months just to get paid what the average man earned in one year alone. This unfortunate discrepancy is even more severe for our fierce women athletes on the field,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Women athletes in the United States bring home countless medals and championships, generate more money than their male counterparts in many cases, and represent the United States with poise and determination. It is unacceptable that they face unequal pay back home in the United States. With the 2020 Olympics underway, I am proud to support the Even Playing Field Act of 2021 to help ensure that every athlete receives the pay worthy of his or her work, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”
The U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) captivated millions during the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup where they won a fourth World Cup title victory and continued to be outspoken in their fight for equal pay. Despite being the most successful international team in women’s soccer, the USWNT continues to endure inequities in compensation, investment, and working conditions. The women’s soccer team outplayed the men’s soccer team, who did not qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and experienced an increase in ticket sales. Yet, the U.S. Soccer Federation pays the woman team members just 38 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. From 2016 to 2018, women’s games generated $50.8 million in revenue compared to $49.9 million for the men’s national team, according to an audit of the U.S. Soccer Federation’s financial statements.
The Even Playing Field Act would amend the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, which outlines eligibility requirements and general duties of national governing bodies (NGBs), such as U.S. Soccer, that are selected by the U.S. Olympic Committee. The Even Playing Field Act would:
- Require the U.S. Olympic Committee to ensure female athletes are provided with wages, investment, and working conditions equitable compared to their male counterparts.
- Clarify eligibility requirements for NGBs to include demonstrating and providing investment, promotional support, working conditions, wages, stipends and other compensation for amateur athletes, coaches, trainers, managers, administrators and officials that is free from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age or national origin.
- Stipulate that duties of NGBs include providing equitable support and encouragement for participation by women, including investment, promotional support, working conditions (including staff support and facilities and equipment), wages, stipends and other compensation.
- Mandate that each NGB submit regular reports to Congress on their compensation practices, broken out by race and gender.
In March 2019 and June 2016, Senator Gillibrand joined a majority of Senate Democrats calling on the U.S. Soccer Federation to provide equal pay to its athletes. The Democratic Women’s Caucus led a letter in July 2019 signed by 52 Members demanding answers from the federation as to how it will remedy its pay inequities. Senator Gillibrand also penned Megan Rapinoe’s TIME 100 List feature in 2020 highlighting her fearless advocacy for gender pay equality, racial justice and LGBTQ rights, and her fabulous pink hair.
In 2016, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution calling for the U.S. Soccer Federation to immediately eliminate gender pay inequity and treat all athletes with the same respect and dignity. Despite that resolution and other efforts, the pay gap has persisted.
The pay discrimination that the women’s teams are subject to reinforces the need to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act to finally put teeth into the Equal Pay Act of 1963. The Paycheck Fairness Act was passed by the House in April and filibustered in the Senate.