Megan Rapinoe Addresses Equal Pay, NCAA Disparities in Congressional Testimony

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 24, 2021

United States forward Megan Rapinoe (15) follows a play during the second half of a SheBelieves Cup women's soccer match against Argentina, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

United States women's national team star Megan Rapinoe spoke Wednesday in front of the House Oversight Committee on the topic of gender inequality. 

Rapinoe explained how she has personally witnessed the disparities in player treatment and how resources are allocated between male and female athletes playing within the U.S. Soccer Federation system:

Carolyn B. Maloney @RepMaloney

“There is no level of status, and there is no accomplishment or power, that will protect you from the clutches of inequality — one cannot simply outperform inequality" -Megan Rapinoe (@mPinoe) live now at @OversightDems #EqualPayDay hearing. https://t.co/IqIeRMV0kS

"The United States women's national team has won four World Cup championships. We've won four Olympic gold medals on behalf of this great country," she said. "We've filled stadiums, we've broken viewing records, we've sold out our jerseys, all the popular metrics by which we are judged."

"Yet despite all of this, we are still paid less than men—for each trophy, of which there are many, for each win, for each tie, for each time we play. Less."

Rapinoe went on to add USWNT players have collectively met every benchmark put before them.

"I feel like honestly we've done everything," she said, per The Guardian's Tom Lutz. "You want stadiums filled? We filled them. You want role models for your kids, for your boys, and your girls, and your little trans kids? We have that. You want us to be respectful? You want us to perform on the world stage?"

USWNT players filed suit against U.S. Soccer in March 2019, arguing not only did they receive lower pay than their USMNT counterparts but also unequal work conditions in areas such as travel and accommodations. The Wall Street Journal's Rachel Bachman wrote the disparity existed despite USWNT games generating more revenue than USMNT matches following the women's triumph in the 2015 World Cup.

Following a judge's decision in May that dismissed the players' equal pay lawsuit, they reached a settlement with U.S. Soccer on their unequal working conditions suit in December. However, the players are appealing the decision in the equal pay suit.

The discussion around gender inequality in sports rose to the forefront again last week prior to the start of the NCAA women's basketball tournament, when photos and video of the fitness area provided to the women significantly differed from that of the space set up for the men's players:

Sedona Prince @sedonaprince_

Let me put it on Twitter too cause this needs the attention https://t.co/t0DWKL2YHR

"For an organization like the NCAA, similar to the U.S. Soccer Federation, that's a non-profit, it's just absolutely unacceptable," Rapinoe said, per Yahoo Sports' Henry Bushnell.

"To say that you value your student-athletes ... [and] to have your women's players show up for one rack of dumbbells is just completely unacceptable. Someone, at some point, thought to themselves that was OK."

NCAA vice president Lynn Holzman acknowledged the problem as photos and videos of the weight room went viral, and the NCAA brought in more workout equipment to remedy the problem.

NBC Sports' Alex Azzi noted the disparities between the men's and women's tournaments extend beyond the weight room equipment. Likewise, notable figures in women's basketball like South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley, Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer and former Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw voiced their criticism of the organization, arguing the situation was emblematic of longstanding problems.