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U.S. Soccer, women’s national team agree on new contract

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The U.S. Soccer Federation and the World Cup champion women’s team have agreed on a labor contract, settling a dispute in which the players sought equitable wages to their male counterparts.

The financial terms and length of the multiyear deal were not disclosed.

“We are proud of the hard work and commitment to thoughtful dialogue reflected through this process, and look forward to strengthening our partnership moving forward,” U.S. Soccer and the players’ association said in a joint statement Wednesday.

The deal comes as the national team is preparing to play an exhibition match against Russia on Thursday in Frisco, Texas. The team faces Russia again on Sunday in Houston.

The agreement was ratified by the players and the federation’s board Tuesday. The team had been playing under a memorandum of understanding that expired Dec. 31.

The deal comes before the start of the National Women’s Soccer League season on April 15. U.S. Soccer pays the wages of the national team players who are allocated across the domestic league, and the terms of those salaries are outlined in the collective bargaining agreement.

“I’m proud of the tireless work that the players and our bargaining team put in to promote the game and ensure a bright future for American players,” player representative Meghan Klingenberg said in a statement. “We are excited to further strengthen the USWNTPA through our new revenue generating opportunities and abilities.”

A group of players drew attention to the fight for a better contract a year ago when they filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that alleged wage discrimination by the federation. The women maintained that players for the men’s national team earned far more than they did in many cases despite comparable work.

Talks had stalled late last year when the players split with the union’s executive director. They picked up again over the last two months after U.S. Women’s National Team Players Association brought in a new executive director and legal representation. Klingenberg, Becky Sauerbrunn and Christen Press were elected player representatives at the team’s January training camp.

The memorandum of understanding between U.S. Soccer and USWNTPA was struck in March 2013. Early last year U.S. Soccer took the players’ association to court to clarify that the CBA ran through 2016 after the union maintained that players could strike.

A federal judge ruled in June that the team remained bound by a no-strike provision from its 2005-12 collective bargaining agreement, heading off any labor action that could have affected last Olympics in Brazil.

The USSF has maintained that much of the pay disparity between the men’s and women’s teams resulted from separate labor agreements. The women’s team had set up its compensation structure, which included a guaranteed salary rather than a pay-for-play model like the men, in the last contract.

There has been no decision issued in the EEOC complaint, which was brought by Sauerbrunn, Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd. All five were on the team that won the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada.

“While I think there is still much progress to be made for us and for women more broadly, I think the WNTPA should be very proud of this deal and feel empowered moving forward,” Rapinoe said.

The contract announcement follows an agreement between USA Hockey and its women’s national team for better compensation following a threat by players to boycott the world championships.

The Irish women’s national soccer team also said Tuesday it could skip an upcoming international match because of a labor dispute. The players, many of them amateurs, say they aren’t compensated for time off from their daily jobs. They say they don’t even have their own team apparel, but share it with Ireland’s youth teams.

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MORE: U.S. women’s hockey deal could have far-reaching impact

Paralympian Blake Leeper advances in 400m at USATF Outdoors (video)

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Paralympic medalist Blake Leeper, believed to be the first double amputee to race at a USATF Outdoor Championships, advanced out of the 400m heats in Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday.

Leeper ran 45.52, third in his heat, to grab the 16th and last spot in the 400m semifinals Friday (10:34 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold).

It marked a personal best by .58 of a second for Leeper, who was racing one day after his ban for testing positive for cocaine in 2015 ended.

“I wanted to advance, but if I don’t I have won already,” Leeper said before he learned he made the semis, according to USA Track and Field. “Just being here and showing everybody what you can truly do with a disability.”

Leeper ran faster than Olympians David VerburgKyle ClemonsArman Hall and Manteo Mitchell, who were all eliminated.

It’s likely that the top five or six in Saturday’s final will make the 4x400m team for the world championships in London in August.

USATF OUTDOORS: Men’s Preview | Women’s Preview
Broadcast Schedule | Full Results

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Alysia Montano races pregnant again at USATF Outdoor Championships (video)

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U.S. Olympic 800m runner Alysia Montaño raced five months pregnant in 100-degree heat at the USATF Outdoor Championships (Summer Champions Series) in Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday.

Montaño, who raced eight months pregnant at the 2014 USATF Outdoors also in Sacramento, finished last in her 800m first-round heat in 2:21.40. She was 10 seconds faster than her time three years ago.

“People were like, oh, you’re going to run faster than you did last time because you’re less pregnant,” Montaño told media in Sacramento, standing next to 2-year-old daughter Linnea. “I was like, I’m still pregnant.”

Athletes are looking for top-three finishes to qualify for the world championships in London in August. Finals are later this weekend.

USATF OUTDOORS: Men’s Preview | Women’s Preview
Broadcast Schedule | Full Results

In a Wonder Woman top, Montaño gritted her teeth on the final straightaway and raised her arms crossing the finish line.

“[In 2014] women let me know that my journey and my story had inspired them in so many different ways,” Montaño said. “I think there’s something about coming out to any venue, not really expecting to win, but just going along with the journey and seeing what comes out of it. And that’s the most beautiful part for me, being a track and field athlete, the platform that I have, I feel so responsible to be a representative of people who don’t have the same platform, don’t have the same voice that I do.

“I represent so many different people. I represent women. I represent black women. I represent pregnant women. Not everybody has the same platform that I do. I think it’s my responsibility to make sure I’m a voice and advocate for them.”

Montaño said she was inspired when she learned Gal Gadot, who played the title role in the movie “Wonder Woman,” filmed half of it while five months pregnant.

“I saw Wonder Woman, and I was like, I for sure am signing up for USA Nationals,” Montaño said. “I already was thinking I was going to do it.”

Montaño said it wasn’t easier or harder racing Thursday versus three years ago, when she had a bigger baby bump.

“The weird part about five months is you’re still growing and like shifting a lot,” she said. “So every week you have to readjust.”

Linnea has seen enough photos of her mom’s famous race in 2014 to know what was going on.

“I go, mom is going to run with your sibling in her belly,” Montaño recalled. “I did that with you, too. And [Linnea] was like, ‘Yeah, it was sticking out!'”

Montaño raced outdoors for the first time since falling in the Olympic Trials 800m final on July 4. Montaño had won the previous Olympic Trials (and finished fourth in London) and the 2015 U.S. title coming back from pregnancy.

She ran without an apparel sponsor Thursday, frustrated that Asics waited until December to say they were not interested in retaining her for 2017. Montaño said that left her no time to try and find a different sponsor, even though she was already planning to have her second child.

“You need to let an athlete know in September, October,” she said. “I’ve been calling [Asics] since September to be like, hey, I didn’t make the Olympic team, I’m 30, I’m going to have another baby.”

In the men’s 800m Thursday, two-time Olympian and 2013 World silver medalist Nick Symmonds was eliminated, 32nd-fastest of 33 runners in the first round.

Symmonds, in his final season, said he has one more race left — the Honolulu Marathon on Dec. 10.

MORE: Montaño finds little joy after Russian stripped of medals

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