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A small women's athletic apparel company is giving the United States women's national soccer team $1 million to help close the pay gap they'll experience this summer at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Title Nine, named for the revolutionary 1972 Title IX legislation, is giving the money directly to the 22 USWNT players. Chief executive Missy Park told Reuters she decided to write her company's largest check in its 32-year history after being "ticked off" watching the "LFG" documentary on the team's equal pay fight.
Title Nine writes $1 million check to USWNT
Title Nine announced the payment on its home page with a video by Park.
"The wage gap is real and it affects all of us. It just so happens the women's national soccer team is emblematic of this much larger issue," Park said. "There's something we all can do. We're just a small company here in Berkeley, California. We can give them a million bucks to help these women at least move towards pay equity.
"Yeah, we're giving a million dollars, but there's a million ways to make a difference. You can go, you can watch, and you can give. Because in the end, money matters. And solving the pay gap is going to be a team sport, but together we can all get it. So let's go."
Park called the team a "national treasure" and noted their domination in the sport.
"And watching that documentary, the U.S. Soccer Federation are paying them like second-class citizens. I was just like 'wow,'" Park told Reuters.
She told Reuters by her calculations the money will put the team on the same pay scale as the men's national team for the six games the women could play at the Olympics. The money will be handled by the USWNT Players Association (USWNTPA).
The USWNT made it through the three-game group stage, though in less than comfortable fashion, and faces the Netherlands in the quarterfinals on Friday (7 a.m. ET).
Company launches equal pay campaign
The donation is one part of the company's "Kick In For Equal Pay" campaign. Park said Title Nine will match all contributions through its initiative up to an additional $250,000. That would bring the total donation of the company, which has 19 stores in 10 states, to $1.25 million.
"At first I was like, they are going to get this worked out in the courts, the U.S. Soccer Federation is going to step up and somebody is going to fix it," Park said, via Reuters. "Then I realized there is something that we can do about it.
"We looked at a lot of the numbers ... and we came to this figure. That's a lot of dough. It's a lot of dough for a small company like ours."
Park said she wants nothing in return from the players and this isn't a sponsorship deal. She hopes the move will encourage others to do the same.
It's the largest donation the team has ever received, USWNTPA executive director Becca Roux told Reuters.
"Brands have significant power to impact the public dialogue on this important issue and we applaud Title Nine for stepping up and leading the effort to support the players and women in every industry," Roux said.
Title Nine also urges fans to help by going to games and watching women's sports on TV.
USWNT keeps up fight for equal pay
The USWNT players filed their opening brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals last week, asking the court to reverse the district's May 2020 decision to dismiss the majority of their equal pay suit against the U.S. Soccer Federation.
They first filed in March 2019 on gender discrimination grounds ahead of their second consecutive World Cup title that summer. A federal judge ruled in May 2020 to dismiss most of their equal pay suit, though the USWNT and USSF agreed on a settlement to unequal working conditions later in the year.
The opening brief filed by USWNT argues that the summary judgement on equal pay was inherently flawed and it failed to consider the evidence showing the USWNT is underpaid compared to its male counterparts.
Part of that argument, as detailed throughout "LFG," is that the USWNT players did make more money than the USMNT over the period of the suit. But the women had to play and win more games to do it, including the ultimate trophy on the World Cup stage.
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