AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
There's been controversy for years about how the women's U.S. soccer players get paid less than the men. This is despite the fact that the women are World Cup champions and the men didn't even qualify last time around. The women's team sued the U.S. Soccer Federation over this pay gap in March of this year. And now the U.S. Soccer president, Carlos Cordeiro, released a letter yesterday saying that, in recent years, the federation paid the U.S. women's players more than the men. Now, to talk about this, we're joined by Rachel Bachman. She's a senior sports reporter for The Wall Street Journal.
Welcome to the program.
RACHEL BACHMAN: Thanks so much, Audie, great to be here.
CORNISH: So before we get to the new information from the head of U.S. Soccer, why do the women believe they're being paid less?
BACHMAN: What they're mainly looking at is what the U.S. Soccer Federation pays to them for playing in national team games. They're saying that U.S. Soccer pays us significantly less for playing in those games than it pays the men's national team.
CORNISH: So now this letter, which was released by the U.S. Soccer president, Carlos Cordeiro, he's saying that, hey, actually, the federation pays the women players more. What's his claim?
BACHMAN: What U.S. Soccer is doing in this letter is it's including the salaries that it pays the women to play in the professional league. Now, this is separate from these players' play for the women's national team. And the players are saying, look, you're making an apples to oranges comparison. Our playing in the professional league is separate from what we get or should get from playing on the women's national team. And U.S. Soccer is saying, no, we're including everything we spend on you. And that's the fair way to account for it.
CORNISH: You report that the men's team has weighed in. What do they say?
BACHMAN: The men's team has issued a statement today in support of the women saying that they're fighting for fair compensation and they support them in that fight.
CORNISH: The timing of this is just before the mediation is supposed to begin over the pay discrimination lawsuit. Is the timing important? What's next with this dispute?
BACHMAN: I think the timing is important, and you could say that U.S. Soccer is trying to defend itself against what's been months of talk in the public about the U.S. women, certainly the public, many of them falling in love with the women watching them play and win the World Cup.
CORNISH: Right, chants of equal pay echoing through the stadium - right? - when they won.
BACHMAN: Yes and again in New York City during the ticker tape parade held to celebrate their victory. So I have no doubt that U.S. Soccer got sort of frustrated by seeing this groundswell feeling like their views weren't represented. So I think this letter was partly their argument that, hey, our accounting should matter and this is the way we see things.
CORNISH: Is this a sign that U.S. Soccer is not willing to give up without a fight, that despite this kind of very public support that the women have embraced, U.S. Soccer still thinks it has a chance to make an argument here?
BACHMAN: Yes. And we know because Carlos Cordeiro, the federation president, emailed the players yesterday saying, look, we're getting a lot of heat from our sponsors, from Congress, about this issue. And so we know they're under extreme pressure, but at the same time, they don't show signs that they're going to, you know, shut up and go away. I think that they feel like these issues need to be debated and settled.
CORNISH: That's Rachel Bachman of The Wall Street Journal.
Thank you so much for your reporting.
BACHMAN: Thank you, Audie, appreciate it.
CORNISH: And one more piece of news about the women's team today - coach Jill Ellis announced she's stepping down in October. In a statement, she said, quote, "the timing is right to move on." She also thanked the federation for its support and investment in the program. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.