28 Jul The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Is Still Denied Equal Pay—So Title Nine Is Writing Them a $1 Million Check
Missy Park, CEO and founder of women’s apparel company Title Nine, was watching LFG—the HBO documentary on the fight for equal pay in women’s soccer—when she had a million-dollar, rage-induced epiphany. “I was just getting so mad,” she says. “Yes, with U.S. Soccer, but also a little bit frustrated with myself. Maybe I can’t do everything [to fix the pay gap], but I can do something.” So she turned to her wife, and asked how much it would cost her company to close the pay gap faced by Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and company.
It was a big number, but Park was all in.
On July 28, Title Nine announced it’s making a game-changing difference for U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) with a $1 million donation. The number represents the maximum pay gap between what the women’s team was paid and what the U.S. men’s team would have been paid for winning the six games leading up to the Olympics.
By now, we all know the facts: The USWNT brings in more championships and, in the last World Cup final, more U.S. viewers—and still they’re not paid equally. They’ve become icons in the fight for women’s equality, though their legal battle with their employer, U.S. Soccer, is ongoing. (After their suit for equal pay was initially dismissed by a judge, the players filed an appeal last week for their right to a trial.)
Outside the courtroom, the USWNT has inspired stadiums filled with tens of thousands of people to chant “Equal pay!,” driven record jersey sales, and even helped drive a shift in major retailers increasing their investment in women’s sports. They’ve also inspired some big sponsors to start writing some big checks. Following the team’s historic 2019 World Cup win, in which the players faced a pay gap of $23,000 each, Secret deodorant made up the difference, calling out U.S. Soccer in the process.
The $1 million donation made to the USWNT Players Association by Title Nine, a small female-founded women’s apparel company based in California that’s composed of 92% women, is the biggest ever. The goal, Park says, is not to make some headlines with a onetime check, but to really move the needle on equal pay for women in sports and beyond. “Money matters—it’s how we connote value in this society,” says Park in explaining why it was so important that Title Nine’s donation go directly into player’s pockets. “We want them to take that money and do with it as they please.”
To help elevate the cause, Title Nine also announced the creation of the Kick In for Equal Pay fund that will encourage other corporations and individual supporters to chip in. “I’m already reaping the benefits of this team,” Park says. “I have a son and a daughter and they get to see how they perform in the brightest lights under the heaviest pressure. I think we all need to step up to the plate.” Title Nine will be matching individual contributions up to $250,000.
Title Nine is named after the landmark legislation that prohibited gender-based discrimination in schools, opening the floodgates for generations of girls and women to participate in sports. So it’s safe to say this issue is close to the core values of the company. “We want women to lead, and to risk, and to own—and do it on equal footing, on an equal playing field,” Park says. “The battle that these women are fighting is the same battle that all of us are fighting, and a win on the soccer field, hopefully soon, will translate into wins in the workplace.”
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