Gender Discrimination in Soccer: U.S. WNT Stands Up for Itself, Again

As you may remember, on October 1, 2014, an application was filed with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario on behalf of 80 international players on national teams participating in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The application argued gender discrimination, and suggested that artificial turf is substandard and would be unacceptable for men’s tournaments. The respondents were the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) and the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). The application was worked on by attorneys in Canada and the U.S., and withdrawn in January 2015, six months ahead of the start of the tournament.

In between the application and withdrawal “FIFA and CSA variously threatened protesting players with suspension, delayed a court decision despite the players’ need to know what surface the tournament would be held on so they could train accordingly, and suggested they would either defy an adverse legal ruling or cancel the tournament altogether. They also repeatedly rejected the players’ settlement offers—for example, to play just the semi-final and championship games on temporary grass surfaces with all installation costs covered by private companies” (source: The Atlantic, Hampton Dellinger, July 5, 2015).

In response to the withdrawal of the lawsuit, Abby Wambach (who retired from professional play after the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup) said: “our legal action has ended,  but I am hopeful that the players’ willingness to contest the unequal playing fields – and the tremendous public support we received during the effort – marks the start of even greater activism to ensure fair treatment when it comes to women’s sports” (source: The Globe and Mail, David Shoalts, January 21, 2015).

And indeed this activism has continued as the U.S. Women’s National Team (WNT) filed a claim on March 30, 2016 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) accusing U.S. Soccer of wage discrimination. The five national team players involved are Carli Lloyd, Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn – they are acting on behalf of the entire U.S. WNT.

As reported in espnW by Kate Fagan, “the U.S. women received a team total of $2 million when it won the World Cup last year in Canada. Yet when the U.S. men played in the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, the team earned a total of $9 million despite going just 1-2-1 and being knocked out in the round of 16” (source: espnW, Kate Fagan, April 1, 2016). This is just one example of the gross wage disparities between the women’s and men’s national teams.

Surprisingly, compensation between U.S. Soccer and the WNT are collectively bargained, and the labour union representing them (and all women soccer players) is the U.S. Women’s National Team Players Association. Disputes between the union and U.S. Soccer has been on-going as the latter has argued that the current agreement is in effect until the end of the 2016 Olympics, while the former argues it can be terminated at any time (source: New York Times, Gregory Bull, February 8, 2016).

Here in Canada, the kind of activism that is being displayed by the U.S. WNT is unheard of for so many political, insidious and blatant reasons. It’d be unfair to point fingers at any one player, and the system itself can be incredibly dis-empowering to women, but Canada WNT players do have agency, and should have a vested interest in a successful result for the U.S. WNT. Cathal Kelly touched on this in the Globe and Mail and asked the CSA about their thoughts. Their response was “Canada Soccer is aware of the lawsuit launched today by members of the U.S. Women’s National Team. This action is specific to those individuals and U.S. Soccer and as such, Canada Soccer will not provide further comment”. Hmmmmmmmmmm …

As the story unfolds, the hope would be that not only does it make visible these angering and repeated acts of discrimination, but engage women’s soccer in Canada in a more complex, honest and accountable public conversation about the impact of sexism, and other discrimination in sport.

To read more about the U.S. WNT application against U.S. Soccer filed last week, go to Andrew Das’ article in the New York Times or visit espnW for full and on-going coverage.


Holiday Indulgence: Sport Books & Movies

The city has been so quiet over these last few days. When I was walking to work this morning, it was around 8:50 a.m. and the squirrels were all over Queen’s Park foraging, but there wasn’t a human in sight (other than myself!) I guess everyone was at home sleeping or out shopping.

Anywho, this holiday there are movies and books who can help pass the time and break up the steady stream of holiday outings, movies and songs. Below are my recommendations, my best of the best out of the scads of materials I have read/watched this year (almost all will be available at your local library or online). You may not like everything but you’ll probably enjoy most:

  1. Becoming Westerly: Surf Legend Peter Drouyn’s Transformation into Westerly Windina written by Jamie Brisick
  2. Dare to Dream: The Story of the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team directed by Joseph M Lavine and Ouisie Shapiro
  3. Venus and Serena directed by Maiken Baird and Michelle Major
  4. Hoop Dreams directed by Steve James
  5. Boy on Ice: The Life and Death of Derek Boogaard written by John Branch
  6. The Reappearing Act: Coming Out as Gay on a College Basketball Team Led by Born-Again Christians written by Kate Fagan
  7. Moneyball written by Michael Lewis
  8. The Two Escobars directed by Jeff Zimbalist and Michael Zimbalist
  9. Second Serve: The Renee Richards Story written by Renee Richards with John Ames
  10. Red Army directed by Gabe Polsky
  11. Senna directed by Asif Kapadia
  12. T-Rex directed by Zackary Canepari and Drea Cooper
  13. Out to Win directed by Malcolm Ingram
  14. Winning Sounds Like This: A Season with the Women’s Basketball Team at Gallaudet, the World’s Only University for the Deaf written by Wayne Coffey
  15. Mad Seasons: The Story of the First Women’s Professional Basketball League, 1978-1981 written by Karra Porter
  16. Marathon Woman: Running the Race to Revolutionize Women’s Sports written by Kathrine Switzer
  17. Curveball: The Remarkable Story of Toni Stone the First Woman to Play Professional Baseball in the Negro League written by Martha Ackmann
  18. Night Games: Sex, Power and Sport written by Anna Krein

Women’s World Cup: Round of 16

There were some teams that had it harder than others in the Round of 16: Australia, Canada, England … but there were also scary flashes of defeat when Japan was playing the Netherlands, and China vs Cameroon. Canada couldn’t have scripted a better pathway to the semi-finals than what they’ve been given this WWC. I thought they had a good game against Switzerland but that the team as a whole was not consistent or cohesive enough. Ultimately it was individual play that propelled them to the win, particularly from Erin McLeod, Josee Belanger and Alysha Chapman.

What was also fun about the Round of 16 was the trash talk. I think it’s fair to say that Colombia hates the US – they certainly have a history with each other. Lady Andrade, Colombia’s star striker and sometimes midfielder, said before the Colombia – US match-up: “They belittle us. They think we’re a team they’re going to walk all over and it will be an easy game for them … we’re going to beat them since they like to talk so much”. Needless to say the Colombians didn’t beat the Americans, but I love the attitude!

Watching England play Norway in the Round of 16, I thought they showed strong goaltending and made strong defensive decisions. They struggle with scoring, with their offensive game basically, however that’s exactly where Canada sits too. So in the end, the Canada – England match-up will be the toughest, and ideal, quarter-final game for the Canadian squad. I have a feeling Canada will win.

Happy Pride Toronto!

Pictures*** from Ottawa matches played on June 20th and June 22nd are below.
[Match 1: Germany vs Sweden & Match 2: England vs Norway]

IMG_1514 IMG_1516 IMG_1520 IMG_1525 IMG_1534 IMG_1560 IMG_1594 IMG_1607 IMG_1618 IMG_1674 IMG_1689 IMG_1701

***All pictures © Cristina Murano