U.S. women’s soccer team is dealt a blow in its legal battle. Is it a setback for all equal pay?

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Rep. Pramila Jayapal goes up against Amazon, Joe Biden publicly addresses the sexual assault allegation against him, and equal pay hits a roadblock. 

– Down but not out.  The U.S. Women’s National Team’s fight for equal pay suffered a devastating blow on Friday. 

A judge ruled that the soccer players’ case did not have enough evidence to proceed to trial—that because the women’s players earned more money than the men did during the period in question, they could not prove unequal pay. (During that time frame, the women won the World Cup and the men fell far short of that goal; if the men had achieved the same level of success as the women, the men would have earned significantly more). 

The UWSNT say they plan to appeal the decision, which does allow some claims, including unequal work and travel conditions, to continue on. It also left room for a negotiated settlement that would provide the women’s players with some financial recompense, and U.S. Soccer with the opportunity for some image rehab. 

But the judge’s decision reverberates beyond the legal battle. The setback arrives while professional athletics are on hold across the globe—a shutdown that threatens the gains women’s sports have made in the past few years. Going into their equal pay case, the women’s players had unprecedented leverage: athletic success, extreme popularity, and global celebrity. Now, with the wind knocked out of their highest-profile off-field cause, will women’s soccer be able to pick up where it left off when sports resume? 

And what of equal pay beyond sports? The U.S. Women’s National Team players were among the most persuasive advocates for the cause. Will the movement for equal pay—already on hold for some companies as they turn their attention to the economic crisis—stall without its star power?

Megan Rapinoe said after the judge’s decision Friday that the team would “never stop fighting for equality.” Let’s hope so—for these athletes and the rest of us.   

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Emma Hinchliffe

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