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U.S. women's soccer demands for equal pay rejected by judge

The judge ruled the women's suit could continue only if it focused on unequal travel, accommodations and personnel support.
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A federal judge in Los Angeles on Friday dismissed demands by the United States women's soccer team for pay equal to that of men's.

Molly Levinson, spokeswoman for the defending World Cup champions, said the plaintiffs would appeal.

"We are shocked and disappointed with today's decision, but we will not give up our hard work for equal pay," she said in a statement. "We are confident in our case and steadfast in our commitment to ensuring that girls and women who play this sport will not be valued as lesser just because of their gender. We will appeal and press on."

Soccer star Megan Rapinoe echoed that sentiment on social media.

The suit pitted the players against the U.S. Soccer Federation. Members of the women's national team had sought more than $66 million in damages as part of their gender discrimination suit.

"We look forward to working with the Women’s National Team to chart a positive path forward to grow the game both here at home and around the world. U.S. Soccer has long been the world leader for the women’s game on and off the field, and we are committed to continuing that work to ensure our Women’s National Team remains the best in the world and sets the standard for women’s soccer," Federation spokesman Neil Buethe said in a statement.

The legal battle grew out of 2016 complaint filed with U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of five top players.

U.S. Soccer has previously said that the women are paid differently because “they specifically asked for and negotiated a completely different contract than the men’s national team, despite being offered, and rejecting, a similar pay-to-play agreement during the past negotiations.”

Judge R. Gary Klausner said, in part, that women "opted for" pay that weighed fixed income more than performance bonuses, which complicated comparisons to how men were paid.

The judge did appear to find some merit in the suit's claim that the federation favored men when it came to travel costs. The women's suit alleged it paid nearly twice as much on flights for the men's team.

"A rational fact finder could infer that the disparity in charter flights, coupled with the disparity in funds allocated for travel more broadly and Defendant's weak explanations for these discrepancies, gives rise to an inference of discriminatory motive," he wrote.

Klausner ultimately awarded summary judgment in part to the federation. But he said the women's suit could continue if it focused on unequal travel, accommodations and personnel support.