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Is equal pay always equal?

The US Women's National Soccer Team suffered a serious drawback on Friday, when a District Court Judge dismissed the main elements of their equal pay and gender discrimination lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation.

The widely publicised legal battle between USSF and its mediatic and highly successful women's national team has captivated the sports law circles, drawing unparalleled attention to issues of gender discrimination in sport.

However, Judge Klausner's 32-page ruling on Friday awarded summary judgment to the USSF, dismissing the principal discrimination arguments put forward by the team. In fact, upon analysis of the facts, negotiations and collective bargaining discussions, the Judge determined the team's male counterparts had effectively earned less money than the women, putting paid to a substantive trial on the issue. A pyrrhic victory on unequal travel and hotel arrangements will do little to dampen the disappointment of those who eagerly anticipated a showdown on the much wider issue of the true value of female sport and its participants.

But the USWNT's claims remain alive and strong in the court of public opinion. With even Presidential hopeful Joe Biden chiming in today with support for the defeated litigants, a conclusion to this saga must surely entail both sides sitting down and reaching an agreement that will allow attention to return to playing exploits.

On Friday a US district court judge rejected the USWNT’s allegations of gender discrimination and ruled in favor of the US Soccer Federation, declaring that the team have not been underpaid. The decision stunned just about everyone who had been following the lawsuit, which the USWNT filed last year. The judge was widely expected to prompt a settlement, but instead he ruled in US Soccer’s favor and gave the USWNT little to work with. Only the team’s complaints that they are subject to inferior travel and accommodation compared to their male counterparts will go to trial, which is now scheduled for June.

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