AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Talks broke down yesterday between the governing body of U.S. Soccer and the women's national team. That team, which just won the World Cup for the fourth time, has sued U.S. Soccer for equal pay. And public support for their suit has followed the players wherever they go, from the World Cup final in France to the victory celebration at City Hall in New York City.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Equal pay, Equal pay...
CHANG: Here to talk about where the mediation stands now is Grant Wahl from Sports Illustrated. Thanks so much for joining us.
GRANT WAHL: Thanks for having me.
CHANG: Let's talk about public opinion - because there is an impression out there that there is a huge disparity between the way women are paid in soccer and the way men are paid in soccer - that this is exactly what the women are alleging, that this is plain old gender discrimination. Is that actually what's going on?
WAHL: Well, I do think it is a complex situation here because they're different structures of payment. When you look at the U.S. women, their club salaries are actually being subsidized by U.S. Soccer. The men are not. The U.S. women have their own players' union. The U.S. men have a separate one. They've each negotiated separate collective bargaining agreements.
Now recently, U.S. Soccer came out and said we actually looked at our numbers over the past 10 years, and if you take out the bonuses that FIFA gives for World Cup performances, we've actually - U.S. Soccer - paid our women's team more than our men's team over the last 10 years. And what was interesting about that was not only did the U.S. women's players deny that vigorously, so did the U.S. men's players union deny that vigorously. And the men have actually come out this year and said we support the U.S. women in their fight for equal pay, and we think they deserve it.
CHANG: So why did things break down yesterday during the talks? What are the sticking points as far as you know?
WAHL: Well, this was a gender discrimination lawsuit that was headed to the court system. And then in June, during the World Cup, both U.S. Soccer and the U.S. women's national team agreed to try mediation as an alternative to going through the courts.
You could argue that both sides have an incentive to settle before the case goes into a court. For U.S. Soccer, I think they want to avoid a discovery process that might put out some things publicly that they don't necessarily want. And if you're the U.S. women's team, you may have public opinion on your side. But that's different from a courtroom. So I was kind of expecting that mediation would produce a resolution, and that's not what happened here.
CHANG: So is it definitely over, the mediation process?
WAHL: I guess what I could see happening here is U.S. Soccer coming back with a new proposal. But the U.S. women's players went on all the big morning shows on the networks - Megan Rapinoe, Christen Press - and said, look; we won't settle for anything other than equal pay.
I'm still a little surprised that U.S. Soccer has fought this so hard publicly. Politico reported that U.S. Soccer had hired Washington lobbyists to persuade lawmakers and even Democratic presidential candidates that their side was in the right in terms of how much they've paid the women versus the men over the last 10 years. And the general response from those campaigns was, why are you spending money on this - on these lobbyists that you could actually pay the players with?
CHANG: Grant Wahl from Sports Illustrated, thanks so much for joining us today.
WAHL: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.