The U.S. Soccer Federation has drawn criticism from sponsor Coca-Cola after arguing that male players bear “more responsibility” than female players, in a legal defense of its practice of paying male players a higher salary.
“The point is that the job of MNT player (competing against senior men’s national teams) requires a higher level of skill based on speed and strength than does the job of WNT player (competing against senior women’s national teams),” lawyers for U.S. Soccer wrote. In addition, because men’s teams compete more often in tournaments offering prize money, and because men’s games generally draw higher ratings than women’s games, “the job of MNT player carries more responsibility within U.S. Soccer than the job of WNT player, from an EPA standpoint.”
U.S. Soccer lawyers submitted the defense in response to an equal pay suit brought by U.S. Women’s Soccer. The Equal Pay Act prohibits lower salaries for women employed in “equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions.”
“We are extremely disappointed with the unacceptable and offensive comments made by US Soccer,” a spokeswoman for Coca-Cola, one of U.S. Soccer’s main sponsors, told the Wall Street Journal. “The Coca-Cola Company is firm in its commitment to gender equality, fairness and women’s empowerment in the United States and around the world and we expect the same from our partners.”
Several other sponsors, including Nike, Allstate, and Johnson-and-Johnson have not commented on the lawsuit. A spokesperson for Volkswagen, a major presenting sponsor of U.S. Soccer, told BuzzFeed News “I myself can hardly believe that these quotes were made or meant that way.”