I have no idea what this says about my personality (don't judge), but I've always been the type that wants to solve a problem. I want answers. And maybe that's a good thing when the issue becomes so personal and emotional.
When I look at the latest U.S. Soccer vs. U.S. women's national team battle, I find a healthy combination of emotions mixed with get us some answers. I know firsthand about the wars we players have waged over the years with U.S. Soccer. (I have the scars to prove them.) I also know the strides U.S. Soccer has made in how it supports the women's team. And I know there is clearly still more to be done.
There's one thing I like most about this Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filing by the U.S. women: transparency. Because that transparency will provide answers. For a long time, players on the men's and women's teams have been trying to decipher the revenue streams at U.S. Soccer. That process often becomes convoluted, especially when it comes to the entity that holds all the commercial rights to the U.S. national teams, Soccer United Marketing (SUM).
The EEOC filing and subsequent investigation will hopefully provide some long-needed clarity. As U.S. star midfielder Megan Rapinoe pointed out to me Saturday: "What numbers [U.S. Soccer] does release are hard to get a real grip on. Where is the money, where is it going and what does it look like -- SUM included? Let's find out."
Inequality brings a visceral reaction. We fought many years to bring others to believe in what was possible with women's soccer, in this country and globally. Now that the possible is being realized in this country, the American women should be compensated accordingly. That's a no-brainer. And if discrimination exists, it'll be determined by the EEOC investigation.
In the filing, the players' attorney, Jeffrey Kessler, listed the 2015 compensation numbers and discussed the profitable year for the women. But one year's figures may differ from those compiled over four years. That led me to remember an old clause we put in our contract after the 2004 Olympics -- a clause for which we fought to avoid the very frustration the current players are voicing.
We were told by U.S. Soccer that the women's team didn't create revenue. Not yet, we replied. And we asked what would happen when we do bring in revenue; when we do realize the potential we believe exists. What can we build into the contract that doesn't freeze us into numbers negotiated years before? This was the resulting clause in the 2005 contract, which I pulled from my dusty files.
"If in any calendar year, the ratio of aggregate compensation of women's national team players to the aggregate revenue from all women's national team games (including all games in U.S. Soccer promoted women's tournaments) is less than the ratio of the aggregate compensation of the men's national team players compensation to the aggregate revenue from all men's national team games (including all games in U.S. Soccer promoted men's tournaments), then U.S. Soccer will make a lump sum payment to the women's national team player pool to make the ratios equal." VIX. Additional Payment if Compensation Ratios Change
Kessler and Megan Rapinoe did not know the clause existed when I asked them about it. U.S. Soccer confirmed to me that the clause still carries forward to the current CBA (assuming, for the moment that there is actually a current CBA, with the lawsuit between U.S. Soccer and the players).
The ratio is not perfect because this assumes the marketing for men's and women's games is equal. As we know, increased marketing of games can bring increased attendance at games. I have not seen the numbers for marketing recently, but equal marketing certainly was not the case in the 1990s or the early 2000s. I would guess that share of the marketing pie has to be more even now. But the ratio clause could help alleviate some of the claimed inequity. And most beneficial to the women's team, it works off the calendar year (as we know, 2015 was a good one for the women), and there is no downside if the ratio goes against them.
Let's do a hypothetical: If the women were paid out $10 million in total compensation to their $20 million in revenue in a calendar year, the ratio is .50. If the ratio for the men was .51 or higher, the women would be compensated a lump sum that would get them to the ratio of the men.
Could be an interesting exercise, to say the least. Especially if U.S. Soccer ensures transparency in how it calculates its aggregate compensation and revenue numbers.
This current battle is about so much more than a ratio, of course. But maybe this gets us closer. Because in the end, we all seek one thing in life, regardless of gender: to be recognized for the hard work we have done and to leave our sport or business or entity in a better place than when we came in. It's not just about the paycheck, it's ensuring the next generation doesn't have to fight the same battles you've fought.
And equally important, it's about more than girls in this country, it's about girls around the world. Imagine the day when girls everywhere won't have to fight for the right to be recognized for their great work or their contributions to society. So for anything that gets us closer to that day and gives us all some needed clarity, I say thank you.