U.S. women's national team member Becky Sauerbrunn won't rule out boycotting the 2016 Summer Olympics unless the ongoing dispute between the team and U.S. Soccer regarding unfair wages is resolved.
The star defender made the admission during a recent interview with ESPN W. Asked whether a boycott would be "on the table" if the issue hasn't been resolved by July, she said:
It would still be on the table. We are reserving every right to do so and we're leaving every avenue open. And if nothing has changed, if we don't feel real progress has been made, then that's a conversation that we're going to have.
... The outcome I hope is equal pay for equal play. I think, compensation-wise, respect-wise, that's what I'm really hoping comes out of this complaint. I hope that it puts enough pressure on the federation to show them our worth, our value.
Per Michael McCann of Sports Illustrated, the USWNT filed a discrimination suit against U.S. Soccer in March, stating its players are entitled to the same wages as the men's team, as they've had more recent success on the pitch and generate greater revenue.
A total of five players filed the suit, including Sauerbrunn. The other four were Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Hope Solo and Megan Rapinoe. In the suit, the players alleged they're paid almost four times less than the men, despite producing almost $20 million in revenue last year, per Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated.
While only five players were named in the suit, Sauerbrunn took to Twitter to inform her fans the entire team was behind it:
The USWNT will enter this year's Olympics as the strong favourites to win the gold after their dominant showing during last year's World Cup. The Stars and Stripes cruised through the tournament, crushed Japan, 5-2, in the final and have been in excellent form ever since.
The men's team didn't even qualify for the Olympics, losing to Honduras in the semi-finals of the CONCACAF qualifiers and to Colombia in a play-off.
Support for the team's suit has been widespread, with even former male player Landon Donovan siding with the USWNT:
But per Wahl, U.S. Soccer argues the current payment structure was agreed on as part of a collective bargaining agreement, and while the team believes the CBA has expired, the federation maintains it's in effect for the rest of 2016.
An Olympic boycott is something both sides will want to avoid, but it would be a powerful bargaining tool for the USWNT. The hype surrounding Sauerbrunn and her team-mates has never been greater. And if the side isn't there to defend its title, it would be a humiliating development for U.S. Soccer.
It would also be a blow for some of the younger players who have yet to taste international success, but given the team's recent track record, they'll have every chance to win silverware in the future. Sitting out one tournament is a sacrifice most will likely make if it means better wages moving forward.