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The legacy of U.S. women’s soccer is bigger than a $24 million payout

February 23, 2022, 2:28 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Iowa’s governor will deliver the GOP State of the Union response, traditional retailers embrace sexual wellness, and the U.S. Women’s National Team achieves a long-sought goal. Have a wonderful Wednesday.

– On the ball. How do you calculate back pay for four World Cup titles, four Olympic gold medals, and six straight years ranked FIFA’s No. 1?. U.S. Soccer settled on a number: $24 million.

The federation finally settled its six-year lawsuit with the U.S. Women’s National Team over unequal compensation, paying out the multimillion-dollar sum. The bulk of the settlement is, in fact, back pay—a “tacit admission that compensation for the men’s and women’s teams had been unequal for years,” per the New York Times.

“It was just extremely motivating to see organizations and employers admit their wrongdoing, and us forcing their hand in making it right,” player Alex Morgan told the Times. U.S. Soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone says the “important thing” is that the stakeholders are “moving forward together.”

The settlement brings to a close the years-long fight that saw the prizewinning women’s team pitted against their employer. Players called out lower pay and inferior working conditions compared to their male peers, even as they outperformed the men in soccer championships. Some of the settlement’s terms depend on the ratification of a contract between U.S. Soccer and the players’ union. Yet it’s still a satisfying end to a saga that outraged soccer fans worldwide.

The team’s lasting legacy may be its status as a voice for equal pay. Says Morgan: “The domino effect that we helped kick-start—I think we’re really proud of it.” Canada’s women’s soccer team, the U.S. Olympic ice hockey team, and the WNBA’s players all followed the U.S. soccer team’s example by fighting for equal play in their own workplaces. (At Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women Summit last year, WNBA star Sue Bird recalled trading tips with her fiancée and soccer star, Megan Rapinoe, on the fight for fair compensation by their respective athletic leagues.)

As part of its settlement, U.S. Soccer agreed to guarantee equal pay for all men’s and women’s players in the years to come. The soccer stars we know and love had to fight hard to get their due—and thanks to their work, the next generation of players hopefully won’t have to. In Rapinoe’s words: “When we win, everyone wins.”

Emma Hinchliffe

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