USWNT 'LFG' HBO Documentary Live Stream, TV Schedule and Preview

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJune 23, 2021

United States' Megan Rapinoe ,center, with Alex Morgan, left, and Allie Long, celebrate with the trophy after winning the Women's World Cup final soccer match between US and The Netherlands at the Stade de Lyon in Decines, outside Lyon, France, Sunday, July 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
Claude Paris/Associated Press

If you simply cannot wait until the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo to watch the United States women's national team, HBO Max can provide your temporary fix.

CNN Films will present the documentary LFG on the streaming service starting Thursday. The film offers a "a no-holds-barred, inside account of the U.S. women's national team's ongoing fight for equal pay."

In March 2016, five members of the USWNT (Carli Lloyd, Becky Sauerbrunn, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Hope Solo) filed a complaint against U.S. Soccer with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. A group of 28 players subsequently pursued legal action in March 2019, citing what they believed to be unequal pay and conditions compared to members of the U.S. men's national team.

ESPN.com's Graham Hays detailed 2019 court filings saying USWNT stars could earn a maximum of $99,000 by competing in and winning 20 friendlies over the course of a year, and that the average pay for a USMNT player over a similar stretch was $263,320, though a full comparison requires a deeper review. In a 2019 feature for the Washington Post's Fact Checker section, Meg Kelly wrote that those figures are from a collective bargaining agreement that was renegotiated in 2017, and did not factor base salaries: "Using the same 20-game scenario, we calculated the player on the women’s team would earn ... about 89 percent of the compensation of a similarly situated men’s team player. If both teams lost all 20 games, the players would make the same amount. That’s because the men [still] earn a $5,000 bonus when they lose and the women have a $100,000 base salary."

AUSTIN, TX - JUNE 16: United States fans hold up an Equal Pay banner in protest of unequal wages for female athletes in action during a Summer Series friendly international match between Nigeria and the United States on June 16, 2021 at Q2 Stadium in Aust
Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

Kelly also delved into the moneymaking financials and concluded it's difficult to make a direct comparison, but that while the men's team was once more profitable, in recent years it's clear that revenue and profits between the two programs are now close.  

"USWNT players and U.S. Soccer have offered contradictory narratives over whether USWNT players are paid more based on revenue generation attributed to their play," Michael McCann, University of New Hampshire law professor and former Sports Illustrated writer, told Kelly. "To the extent degree of revenue generation influences any pay increases, the two sides will need to find common ground on how that topic is empirically measured."

The litigation, which seeks back pay, included claims of unequal working conditions as well. The USWNT said they played on artificial turf far more frequently than the men and had to travel on commercial flights more often. In a 2020 settlement, the sides agreed to effectively equalize those issues across the two programs and provide "comparable budgets" for hotel stays. 

Relations between the two sides reached a nadir in the spring of 2020 when details of U.S. Soccer's argument in court came to light.

"The overall soccer-playing ability required to compete at the senior men's national team level is materially influenced by the level of certain physical attributes, such as speed and strength, required for the job," the organization said.

U.S. Soccer also argued that members of the USWNT didn't require "equal skill, effort and responsibility under similar working conditions."

Prior to their 3-1 victory over Japan in the SheBelieves Cup final on March 11, 2020, the USWNT players wore their warmup shirt inside out as a statement against U.S. Soccer:

USWNT Players @USWNTPlayers

Unity. 4 stars only. Who's with us? https://t.co/AYv2YlcSl7

The outcry led Carlos Cordeiro to resign from his role as president of the federation.

A federal judge ruled in May 2020 that U.S. Soccer hadn't violated the Equal Pay Act and dismissed that portion of the lawsuit. The USWNT was allowed to continue with the allegations of unequal working conditions. The two sides reached the settlement on working conditions last December.

U.S. Soccer @ussoccer

A statement from U.S. Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone on today’s agreement with the USWNT. More: https://t.co/qSenD2fV8T https://t.co/MvC7mTr6tp

More than seeking equal treatment from U.S. Soccer, the lawsuit helped bring attention to the often wide disparity in resources allocated to male and female athletes.

One such example came during the NCAA basketball tournament this past spring.

Oregon forward Sedona Prince shared a video that immediately went viral contrasting the weight rooms the NCAA had arranged for the men's and women's players.

Sedona Prince @sedonaprince_

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

That was one of multiple areas in which the men enjoyed better amenities over the course of the tournament.

Followers of the WNBA have also pointed to the absence of coverage dedicated to the league for many years, on top of the sexism the players have experienced away from the court.

Editor's note: This article was updated after publish to provide a fuller detailing of the compensation picture and context around the litigation points and 2020 settlement.