The United States Soccer Federation argued in a Monday night court filing that the gender discrimination lawsuit lodged by the U.S. women's national team does not have legal standing under the Equal Pay Act.
In documents obtained by BuzzFeed News, U.S. Soccer alleged that because women players are less skilled than men in soccer and to not bear the same level of responsibilities, they should not be owed the $67 million in back pay they are suing to obtain or be given comparable facilities.
The USWNT won the World Cup last summer, while the country's men failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Still, there remains a financial gap in earnings between squads that has been elevated in the public spotlight over the past year. The USWNT used its World Cup triumph as a platform to argue for rights it contends have not been fairly afforded.
“The job of a [men’s national team player] carries more responsibility within US Soccer than the job of a [women’s national team] player,” wrote U.S. Soccer in its response to the lawsuit.
At one point in the filing, U.S. Soccer painted the difference between men and women players as a matter inherent physical talent, writing among other things that men have superior lung capacity and muscle composition than women. In an attempt to drive home this point, U.S. Soccer referenced a study that says five-time Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Katie Ledecky could never be as valuable as prolific men's swimmer Michael Phelps due to biological differences.
"No matter how great the great Katie Ledecky gets," U.S. Soccer wrote, "she will never beat Michael Phelps or his endurance counterparts in the pool."
A USWNT spokesperson on Tuesday wrote in a statement that U.S. Soccer's filing was "just plain simple sexism" and "sounds as if it had been made by a caveman."
— Meg Linehan (@itsmeglinehan) March 10, 2020
The sides are expected to meet in federal court in May if they do not reach a settlement.