ATLANTA — Frank De Boer, head coach of the defending MLS champion Atlanta United FC, said the idea of female soccer players receiving the same pay as their male counterparts is “ridiculous.” De Boer was responding to a lawsuit filed earlier this year in Los Angeles by dozens of U.S. women’s soccer players against the U.S. Soccer Federation, alleging gender discrimination.
The complaint seeks to represent women’s soccer players as a class action suit. It includes some of the biggest names in women’s soccer, and it alleges “institutionalized gender discrimination,” including violations of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The complaint is the latest salvo in the players’ long-standing bid for equality. A dominant powerhouse especially in comparison to a U.S men’s team that has never been dominant, U.S. women lag far behind the men in terms of compensation.
“It’s the same like tennis,” De Boer said to The Guardian. “If there are watching, for the World Cup final, 500 million people or something like that, and 100 million for a women’s final, that’s a difference. So it’s not the same. And of course they have to be paid what they deserve to [earn] and not less, just what they really deserve. If it’s just as popular as the men, they will get it, because the income and the advertising will go into that. But it’s not like that, so why do they have to earn the same? I think it’s ridiculous. I don’t understand that.”
Overall, however, De Boer said he believes in equal pay. “I think it started because a woman [was] getting underpaid, especially at [managerial] positions,” he said. “They have to earn the same as a man. I think if you have a manager position for a bank or something, you have to earn the same what the men did because it’s not physically, just only here [points to head], so why do you have to earn less, because you’re doing the same job as a man? I think that’s also dropped a little bit into the sports world, like tennis and soccer. But I think that’s still different.”
The Women’s National Soccer Team’s World Cup championship victory over the Netherlands on July 7, its fourth since 1991, heightened the focus on gender equality in sports. The 28 plaintiffs include stars such as Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan and reserve players. They are seeking equitable pay, wage adjustments, back pay and special damages for lost compensation.
U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro said $34.1 million in salary and game bonuses were paid out to the women between 2010 and 2018, compared to $26.4 million for the men’s team.
Patch Editor Paige Austin contributed to this report.