In announcing that they had filed a wage-discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission late last month, the five members of the U.S. women’s soccer team seemed to suggest that the move was in lieu of an actual boycott.
“I think that’s why we’re here taking this action and filing this complaint,” Alex Morgan said when asked by NBC’s Matt Lauer whether a boycott or strike was on the table.
But USWNT co-captain Becky Sauerbrunn is taking a stronger stance, suggesting that the team could very well boycott this year’s Rio Olympics if the players’ salary demands aren’t met.
“It would still be on the table,” Sauerbrunn told ESPNW’s Julie Foudy when asked about an Olympic boycott. “We are reserving every right to do so and we’re leaving every avenue open. If nothing has changed and we don’t feel any progress has been made, then it’s a conversation that we’re gonna have.”
Sauerbrunn laid out the team’s complaint, which goes beyond the salary imbalance with the far-less-successful U.S. men’s team to encompass slights such as having to play some games on artificial turf.
“The outcome, I hope, is equal pay for equal play,” Sauerbrunn said. “I think, compensation-wise and respect-wise, that’s what I’m really hoping comes out of this complaint. I hope that it puts enough pressure on the federation, to show them our worth and our value. Hopefully also, from there, other people put enough pressure on U.S. Soccer if the complaint doesn’t fall in our favor. Hopefully that’s the ending point.”
In an op-ed for the New York Times that was published Monday, Carli Lloyd said that the team has considered striking in the past.
“Two years ago, before the Algarve Cup, an important annual tournament in Portugal, we considered going on strike over these issues, but we weren’t completely united then and wound up backing down,” Lloyd wrote.
The Olympics are a much bigger stage than the Algarve Cup, obviously, and a USWNT boycott would deprive the women’s soccer tournament of its most visible team, one that has won four of the five Olympic gold medals ever handed out in the sport. But there would be risks involved, considering the public support the team currently is getting over its dispute with U.S. Soccer. Would that support continue after an Olympic boycott?