Legislation recently reintroduced by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Shelly Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) joins a growing number of federal bills on pay equity for female athletes.

The “Equal Pay for Team USA” Act of 2021, first introduced in 2019, would require equal pay for all athletes representing the United States in international sporting competitions, regardless of the athlete’s gender. This comes less than a month after the “Even Playing Field” Act, another bill addressing pay equity for female athletes, was reintroduced.

Currently, men and women representing Team USA in the same sport can receive different compensation, which can result in a gender-based pay disparity. The disparity in pay between men’s and women’s national teams was highlighted after the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) victory in the 2019 FIFA World Cup finals. The USWNT sued the U.S. Soccer Federation for equal pay under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, eventually settling some claims.

The USWNT has won four FIFA world cup titles (1991, 1999, 2015, and 2019) and four Olympic gold medals (1996, 2004, 2008, and 2012).

Introducing the bill, Senator Capito explained, “[I]t is only right that the women competing for the United States in global athletic competitions receive the same kind of pay and benefits as their male counterparts. This is an issue we can address together, not as Democrats and Republicans, but as Americans, and I’m proud to join Senator Cantwell in introducing this legislation.” The proposal goes beyond equal financial compensation.

It requires that all athletes are afforded the same benefits, medical care, travel budgets, and reimbursement of expenses.

The national governing bodies for over 50 sports and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic committees, which would also be required to conduct oversight investigations and submit annual reports regarding compliance, would be covered. Senator Cantwell emphasized that Americans should be assured that U.S. athletes representing the country on the world stage are compensated equally and

“anything short of that sends exactly the wrong message across the world and here at home about the American commitment to equality and fairness.”

The proposal has already garnered support of several organizations, including the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association, Sports Fans Coalition, Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Association, and UN Women.

If you have questions about this or other equal pay issues, contact a member of the Jackson Lewis Sports Industry Team or any Jackson Lewis attorney to discuss.

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Photo of Gregg E. Clifton Gregg E. Clifton

Gregg E. Clifton is a Principal in the Phoenix, Arizona, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is Co-Leader of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group and serves as the editor of the firm’s sports law blog.

Mr. Clifton has extensive experience in…

Gregg E. Clifton is a Principal in the Phoenix, Arizona, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is Co-Leader of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group and serves as the editor of the firm’s sports law blog.

Mr. Clifton has extensive experience in the collegiate and professional sports world. He has advised numerous professional franchises on general labor and employment issues, including Title III ADA regulatory compliance and wage and hour issues. He serves as lead counsel for several Major League Baseball teams in their salary arbitration matters and has represented NCAA and NAIA collegiate clients regarding rules compliance, investigatory matters and in disciplinary hearings. In addition, he has handled Title IX investigations and compliance issues for NCAA and NAIA member institutions. Mr. Clifton has also worked extensively in the area of agent regulation and enforcement in professional and college sports and regularly provides counsel on issues relating to NCAA and NAIA amateurism issues and athlete eligibility questions. He has also served as an expert witness in matters involving sports agents’ work and responsibilities, as well as athlete compensation issues.

Prior to joining Jackson Lewis, he spent six years as Chief Operating Officer and Vice President of Team Sports for Gaylord Sports Management. He also served as President of the Athlete and Entertainment Division for famed sports attorney Bob Woolf’s firm, Woolf Associates, in Boston.

Mr. Clifton began his career as an Associate at Jackson Lewis where he focused his practice on traditional labor law. He continues to counsel clients in the areas of collective bargaining negotiations, representation cases, arbitrations and National Labor Relations Board matters.

Mr. Clifton frequently serves as an expert speaker to law schools, including Harvard University, Boston College, Hofstra University and Arizona State University, and bar associations regarding sports law issues, including agent regulation and salary arbitration. He is also often cited as an expert source in national news media for his commentary and opinion on legal issues in sports.