U.S. Soccer’s Equal Pay CBA With Women’s, Men’s Team Is Collective Action At Its Best

FRISCO, TX – FEBRUARY 23: Cindy Parlow Cone congratulates Catarina Macario #20 the United States for … [+] winning the SheBelieves Cup MVP award after a game between Iceland and USWNT at Toyota Stadium on February 23, 2022 in Frisco, Texas. (Photo by Erin Chang/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

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U.S. Soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone could have been forgiven for taking a victory lap in a media Zoom on Wednesday. But the ‘99er and leader who finally navigated U.S. Soccer to a true pay equity between its men’s and women’s team, in a CBA that runs through the next four World Cups, cited the long road to get to this week’s historic moment.

“I don’t think I can claim this as my win, right?”, Cone said. “There were so many people that have been involved in this fight and this journey. So many people’s shoulders that I’m standing on, that have allowed me to get to this point, even get to this position… I’m incredibly proud of this moment. But it is not my win alone. I think this is a win for all the people that have been involved in this fight over the last 25 years.”

Many of those people — Cone’s fellow ‘99ers, who she said were blowing up her texts, for instance — won’t let her forget this role. She’s right, of course. This is a collective action.

And that is clearer with any attempt to step back a bit and look at the larger victories in women’s sports over the past several years. Becca Roux, executive director of the USWNTPA, brought her side together in the way Meghann Burke and the NWSLPA, as a group, fought for the first-ever CBA for the National Women’s Soccer League. Each of these groups were in the corner of the WNBPA, which signed a landmark CBA with the WNBA in 2020 that dramatically increased salaries in that league as well.

The fight, however, goes beyond even the boundaries of sport, according to Roux.

“We don’t get here without collective action,” Roux said. “And it was actually Cindy and her teammates, around the 1999 World Cup, that unionized. And it is delightful to watch our sisters and other sports, including NWSL, achieve gains. We keep building on each other… and it’s not just us in sports and women’s sports. There is a societal movement.”

Roux also noted that in part, what produced this moment was a lawsuit by members of the women’s national team. Again, it took a group fight to win the day.

At times in America, particularly lately, it can feel like the country is going backwards in some important ways. But to hear Midge Purce and Walker Zimmerman, representatives from the women’s and men’s teams, speak about working together to achieve better outcomes for all players, felt like a necessary corrective.

“I think the collaboration that we’ve seen, especially throughout these negotiations has has definitely improved and created personal relationships with the men and the women,” Zimmerman said. “And I’m hoping that in the future as we continue to partner together, continue to fight for things together.”

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