When the U.S. women’s national soccer team captured its second consecutive World Cup title in France earlier this month, the country was inspired by the drama and storylines that emerged. Some members of Congress were inspired as well.
Several members of the Democratic Women’s Caucus of the House of Representatives, headlined by co-chairs Jackie Speier, Lois Frankel and Brenda L. Lawrence, released a statement last week detailing a proposed bill dubbed the Even Playing Field Act of 2019.
The bill would amend the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act by ensuring that national governing bodies, such as U.S. Soccer, must demonstrate they would provide “equal investment, working conditions, wages and other compensation” to all amateur athletes, regardless of gender. The national governing bodies would have to submit regular progress reports to Congress on those same issues.
“It’s an outrage that women athletes have had to fight for equal pay when the only thing they should be fighting for is the world title or a gold medal,” Speier said in her press release.
H.R. 3882 has 33 co-sponsors and has been introduced to the House Judiciary Committee. The bill must be passed by both houses of Congress and then signed by President Donald Trump, who recently engaged in a public argument on Twitter with star forward Megan Rapino.
The bill is largely directed at the U.S. Soccer Federation, which is being sued by 28 players. Despite earning more money for the federation in recent years than the men’s national team, the women insisted they were discriminated against in terms of pay and medical treatment.
Alan O’Driscoll, the president of the board for the Half Moon Bay Soccer Club, thinks the implications would reach beyond just the soccer pitch.
“Equal pay for equal work is a strong incentive,” he said. “And it does something else; it also motivates women. It’s a spectacle, it’s notable. So, if a woman in the workplace gets 90 cents to the dollar (a man gets), people just shrug their shoulders. But if it’s the women’s national team it gets attention … I think it helps all women.
“It’s not just for women, it’s for minorities as well,” said O’Driscoll. “It spills over, because it basically says everybody — gay, lesbian, people of color — they all deserve equal pay for equal work.”