Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked a resolution urging FIFA, the international soccer governing body, to pay its female soccer players the same as their male counterparts.
"Gender discrimination is wrong, all of us know that,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). “But we have a budget to pass. We have a debt crisis to fix. We have an education system that needs reform. We have a humanitarian crisis in Europe that we ought to address. That's what the United States Senate ought to be spending time on, rather than offering opinions and resolutions about a private international entity and how they should award prizes."
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the measure's sponsor, said passing the measure wouldn't get in the way of other business.
"We could take 30 or 50 or 82 seconds out of the 100 hours or so we'll spend during the months of sitting here doing nothing, and pass a resolution that calls for the equal treatment of male and female athletes.” said Leahy. “If we cannot even pass a non-binding resolution, how can we ever achieve real pay equity for women?”
Leahy’s effort to get congressional support for equal pay in international soccer comes two days after President Barack Obama honored the U.S Women’s Soccer Team at the White House for their World Cup victory in July. It also comes after Abby Wambach, the leading career scorer in all of international soccer, announced her retirement from the U.S. women's team. Wambach, 35, who has been playing since 2001, had scored the most goals by any man or woman in international soccer.
The gender pay gap in international soccer flared as an issue after FIFA awarded the U.S Women’s team $2 million for winning the world championship earlier this year. The men’s team, which got eliminated in the second round last year, received $8 million. The 2014 Men’s World Cup winner, Germany, was awarded $35 million.
According to NBC Sports, the total payout for the Women’s World Cup this year was $15 million, while the men’s teams were awarded a total of $576 million in the World Cup last year.
“It’s sexist, it’s wrong," Leahy said. "In this day and age [we should] stop treating women as second-class citizens.”
Jérôme Valcke, FIFA’s former secretary-general, who was suspended last month in the wake of corruption allegations , said last year that calls for equal pay are “nonsense,” because women participate in fewer tournaments than men.
"The comparison between the prize money of the men's World Cup in Brazil to the women's World Cup in Canada, that's not even a question I will answer because it is nonsense," Reuters cited Valcke saying at a news conference last year. "We played 30th (men's) World Cup in 2014 and we are playing the seventh women's World Cup, so things can grow step-by-step.”