The row over equal pay in US football spilled over onto Twitter on Thursday when an official US Soccer account appeared to mock the women’s players' association.
On Wednesday, the US Soccer Federation (USSF) announced that it would be offering the women’s team an identical pay structure to their male counterparts, in one of the biggest developments yet in the four-time World Cup winners' battle for equal pay.
US forward Alex Morgan then told Forbes magazine that "any commitment to equal pay publicly is good", but explained that the women's players "need to look line by line at what they're actually providing, because if you have equal but it's not even what we got before, or to the value that we are, then we still consider that to be not good enough."
The United States Women’s National Team Players Association later tweeted: “USSF's PR stunts and bargaining through the media will not bring us any closer to a fair agreement. In contrast, we are committed to bargaining in good faith to achieve equal pay and the safest working conditions possible. The proposal that USSF made recently to us does neither.”
The official communications team of US Soccer later retweeted that response, adding that the offer of identical contracts and the discussion of equalizing prize money was “real, authentic and in good faith” and saying that “A publicity stunt is a 90-minute one-sided movie.”
The United States Women's National Team (USWNT) and US Soccer have been embroiled in a fight over equal pay for the past four years and suffered a significant setback last year when a judge dismissed their claims of wage discrimination.
While Wednesday’s announcement appears to be a step forward in discussions, it remains to be seen whether the World Cup winners, who are already seeking more than $66 million (£49.4m) in damages under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, would agree to such terms.
If the women or men's team do not agree to the new deals, USSF have said they will invite each union to sit in on negotiations.
The USSF said in a statement: "US Soccer firmly believes that the best path forward for all involved, and for the future of the sport in the United States, is a single pay structure for both senior national teams.
"This proposal will ensure that USWNT and USMNT players remain among the highest-paid senior national team players in the world, while providing a revenue-sharing structure that would allow all parties to begin anew and share collectively in the opportunity that combined investment in the future of US Soccer will deliver over the course of a new CBA."
The federation is also calling upon the players and both player associations to join them in "finding a way to equalise Fifa World Cup prize money between the USMNT and the USWNT."
USSF has previously argued that it cannot pay the women World Cup bonuses matching those of the men because of vastly dissimilar bonus payments for men's and women's tournaments paid to federations by Fifa. "US Soccer will not agree to any collective bargaining agreement that does not take the important step of equalising Fifa World Cup prize money," it added.
More than two years have passed since the women’s team put their names to a lawsuit against the USSF over equal pay and working conditions. The women are four-times world champions; the men failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
The women claim they have not been paid equitably under their collective bargaining agreement that runs through to December 2021, compared to what the men's team receives under an agreement that expired in December 2018.
But in May last year, the USWNT’s claim for equal pay was thrown out by a federal judge, prompting Megan Rapinoe, one of the leading voices in the fight against US Soccer, to vow that the team would “never stop fighting for equality”.
Last December, the USSF and USWNT reached a settlement in their lawsuit, which brought an end to the dispute over unequal working conditions in areas including travel, hotel accommodation, staff support and the right to play on grass rather than artificial surfaces.
Analysis - proposals fall short of USWNT's goals, but could build momentum
By Fiona Tomas
While identical contracts appear to be a step in the right direction, the offer still falls short of what the USWNT have long been fighting for: to be paid exactly the same as the men’s national team.
Since 2017, the USWNT have felt they should be paid more than the men given their successes on the pitch, that has seen them capture four World Cups and four Olympic gold medals.
According to figures published by the Washington Post, between 2016-18, the women's games generated around $900,000 more revenue than the men’s games and contributed to around half of USSF's revenue.
While also drawing larger audience figures, and with a bigger demand in ticket sales, huge marketing deals have also boosted the federation's coffers.
In 2019, Nike sold more of the USWNT's home jerseys on its website than any other football team's shirt (male or female), in a single season in its history.
The contract offer, could however, be an important step in the USWNT’s lengthy quest for equal pay, which has dragged on since March 2019 and lost considerable ground when federal judge Gary Klausner ruled the pay case did not warrant a trial.
Former USA goalkeeper Hope Solo courted controversy earlier this year when she suggested the current national team "isn't doing enough" to fight for equal pay.
Either way, the timing of the USSF's announcement is significant, coming at a time when other nations are pressing ahead with pay parity. Earlier this month, the Football Association of Ireland announced equal match fees for its women’s team - who are ranked 32 places below the USWNT — becoming just the 10th nation out of 185 in the game to do so.
Last September the English Football Association confirmed that it pays its women's players exactly the same as their male counterparts for representing England, both in terms of match fees and match bonuses and that the parity had been in place since January 2020.