Perhaps it isn’t honest to name america ladies’s football crew’s $24m “equal pay” agreement a Pyrrhic victory.
Let’s as an alternative name it a pyromaniac’s victory. Some huge cash was once piled up and set on fireplace.
Thanks to a submitting by means of america ladies’s prison crew, we will be able to now quantify a minimum of a part of that price: “(T)the Court should award Plaintiffs’ counsel $6.6 million in attorneys’ fees and approve reimbursement of $1,369,127 ($1,319,127 plus $50,000) in Expenses.
According to that filing, the women who stand to collect that settlement are fine with that money – with the exception of Hope Solo, who has not settled a separate lawsuit against US Soccer and has pounced on those legal fees in an effort to block the settlement. with her former teammates.
The women’s legal team’s filing includes plenty of self-aggrandizement about the landmark settlement and the collective bargaining agreement that followed, the latter of which was a multiparty conversation that would be at best tangentially related to the lawyers’ aggressive posture. What’s mentioned a bit less frequently is one little detail:
They lost the case.
In the court of public opinion, the women did quite well. The fuzzy math and torturous logic of their legal team’s filings meant little when weighed against an unsympathetic US Soccer Federation, whose own lawyers drastically misstepped with a filing that claimed women have less “ability” than males, a transfer that prompted the resignation of tone- deaf federation president Carlos Cordeiro. Few other folks significantly tested the half-truths and outright distortions of arguments through which gamers making loads of 1000’s of bucks a yr had been portrayed as paupers who could not come up with the money for kid care. Such claims weren’t matter to cross-examination.
In the court docket of legislation, the ladies misplaced the majority in their case on abstract judgment, a choice that stunned the media however was once much less of a wonder to the legal professionals who in truth tested the case and sought selection treatments for the crew. The key issue was once that america ladies had all the time negotiated now not only for a special pay. scales however for a special pay construction – many ladies had been on salaries whilst the boys performed for bonuses simplest.
“The WNT was willing to forgo higher bonuses for other benefits, such as greater base compensation and the guarantee of a higher number of contracted players,” Judge R Gary Klausner wrote. “Accordingly, Plaintiffs cannot now retroactively deem their CBA worse than the MNT CBA by reference to what they would have made had they been paid under the MNT’s pay-to-play structure when they themselves rejected such a structure.”
Simply put, when the proof was once put prior to any vital exam through which the opposition might be heard, the ladies’s legal professionals misplaced.
In their submitting arguing for just about $8m, the legal professionals make a passing connection with the verdict, however simplest to say that the case was once slightly sophisticated: “The prison facet too offered novel complexities, specifically on the way to perceive and observe an ‘equivalent’ charge of pay’ when offered with competing collective bargaining agreements concerned differing and complex pay buildings. Navigating this key factor, particularly with the intricate details right here, demanded “a high level of skill and high-quality work to overcome.” … Indeed, this very factor determined abstract judgment and was the point of interest of Plaintiffs’ Ninth Circuit enchantment.”
The women’s lead attorney, Jeff Kessler, has been wildly successful in cases involving sports other than soccer. But he has a track record of losing cases against US Soccer, only to drag them out on appeal.
At least this particular case settled before going back to court, and it’s little wonder Kessler and company want to count it as a win. But how much was spent to reach that place?
The settlement is $22m in back pay and $2m in grants for players’ service to the game after their playing days are done. If the legal team takes an $8m cut, that’s $14m in back pay and the $2m in grants.
Would the federation have settled the case for that much money several years ago?
Perhaps, especially when we consider how much the federation spent on its own legal fees. The federation’s 990 forms show some staggering bills for outside counsel. In the fiscal year ending March 2021, US Soccer paid $9.17m to Latham & Watkins and $3.2m to other firms. The year before, it was nearly $9m to Latham & Watkins. We can’t assume all of these costs went to the women’s suit because the federation is also facing other lawsuits – against plaintiffs also represented by Kessler – but it’s safe to say the federation threw a considerable amount of money to trial lawyers as well as its own in-house counsel, perhaps especially after a reshuffling prompted by the same legal filing that doomed Cordeiro.
US Soccer considered those expenses worthwhile because they were better than a $67m payout. Cindy Cone, the Hall of Fame player who replaced Cordeiro as president, frankly said that such an award would likely bankrupt the federation, and accounting at the time supported her case.
The federation’s bottom line looks better now, thanks in part to punting elite youth development to professional and youth-specific clubs and thanks in part to lower expenses during the pandemic. But the cost of this case and its settlement is still staggering.
And rank-and-file members of US Soccer are angry that so much of the federation’s budget is going toward the elite few, both players and lawyers, to such an extent that they tried to replace Cone with, of all people, the previously ousted Cordeiro. The new collective bargaining agreements that pay the able-bodied national teamers far more than their known peers won’t soothe any raw emotions. Grassroots organizers have asked pointed questions about spending on developing referees, who have literally and figuratively come under attack at several levels of the game, and coaches, who often have to shell out thousands of dollars in fees and travel costs to get advanced licenses.
So while other federations put their prize money back into developing the next generation, US Soccer’s prize money pays the current players and their lawyers.
Maybe Fifa can institute a Legal World Cup someday, and america can carry the trophy.