Senators re-introduce equal pay bill for all U.S. national teams month ahead of Tokyo Olympics

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A group of U.S. Senators re-introduced a bill on Thursday to provide equal pay, investment and working conditions to all U.S. national team athletes, coaches and personnel. 

It was originally introduced in July of 2019 following the U.S. women's national soccer team's victory in the World Cup. It was re-upped the day that HBO Max's documentary, "LFG," on the USWNT legal fight for equal pay was released. It's also one month ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.  

Senate bill for equal pay

Equal pay banner for USWNT.
United States fans hold up an Equal Pay banner in protest of unequal wages for female athletes in action during a June friendly. (Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The "Even Playing Field Act" would amend the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act to specify "equal opportunity." The act requires that the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee provide "investment, promotional support, working conditions (including staff support and facilities and equipment for training and competition) and wages, stipends, and other compensation that are equal to that provided to amateur athletic activities for men." 

It was introduced by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), as well as Democratic Women's Caucus co-chairs. More than 20 Democratic representatives are co-sponsoring it in the House.

“Next month, the U.S. women’s national teams will take the stage at the Summer Olympics, ready to bring home the gold,” Feinstein said in a statement. “Unfortunately, despite numerous and repeated successes on the field, they continue to receive less financial support than their male counterparts. It’s time to even the playing field and ensure men and women’s national teams receive equal pay and resources within their respective sports.”

Murray said in a statement: 

“Pay discrimination is unacceptable in any job, but few things highlight this pay inequity more dramatically than the staggering differences in how our male and female athletes are paid,” Murray said. “It is outrageous that even while winning more championships and gold medals than their male counterparts, our talented female athletes are still having to fight for equal pay. This bill will make sure that female athletes representing our country don’t get shortchanged. But we can’t stop there — we need to make sure every single athlete, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity – gets the pay, dignity, and respect they deserve.”

The announcement and bill cites the USWNT's successes, but adds its players are paid "38 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts." It also cites the U.S. Women's National Hockey team's planned boycott of the 2017 IIHF Women's World Championship to receive better pay. 

Bill not only about equal pay 

The calls for equal pay take over the conversation, but the bill is also about investment, promotion and working conditions. 

The proposed bill clarifies that national governing bodies demonstrate and provide these equally to all sports, men's and women's, and that it remains free from discrimination. It also mandates that the national governing bodies submit regular reports to Congress broken down by race and gender to show their compensation practices. 

Equal pay bill coincides with USWNT documentary

The bill came back into the Senate the same day the USWNT documentary on its equal pay lawsuit hit the HBO Max streaming site. It's described as a "no-holds-barred, inside account of the U.S. women's national team's ongoing fight for equal pay."

The U.S. Soccer communications team released a 17-tweet thread disputing claims made in the documentary, calling it a "misleading and inaccurate account of the facts." The U.S. Soccer Federation declined to participate in on-camera interviews for the piece, the film group said. 

With the U.S. national team, whose roster was announced this week, back into the international spotlight, the equal-pay lawsuit that was allowed to move forward in appeal will also be a central talking point this summer. 

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