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U.S. Female Soccer Team Settles Part Of Gender Discrimination Suit

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The U.S. women's national soccer team is getting a workplace upgrade. A proposed settlement with the U.S. Soccer Federation promises better travel and safer playing surfaces, among other things, for the reigning World Cup champions. This settlement resolves part of a discrimination lawsuit after the women sued the federation. It does not settle their demand for equal pay. NPR's Tom Goldman reports.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Last year, the U.S. women's national soccer team confirmed its folk hero status.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: For the fourth time, the United States of America are crowned champions of the world, and for the very first time, they've done it on European soil.

GOLDMAN: But just a few months before that crowning moment, the U.S. women filed a discrimination lawsuit describing workplace conditions not fit for folk heroes - travel hotels, playing fields that didn't measure up to their U.S. male counterparts who've had far less success on the pitch. Yesterday's settlement, which is expected to be approved, righted the workplace wrongs for the women. They'll fly charter like the men. They'll have comparable hotel budgets. And in almost all circumstances, they'll play on grass - a safer surface than the artificial turf where they sometimes competed. From both sides, there was praise for the agreement. Former national team player Cindy Parlow Cone is now the U.S. Soccer Federation president.

CINDY PARLOW CONE: This is a good day. I hope everyone sees that we are a new U.S. Soccer.

GOLDMAN: She meant a federation more open and collaborative than the one under the previous leadership that battled and even denigrated its most prized asset, the U.S. women. Their spokeswoman, Molly Levinson, called the settlement an important step in a long fight.

MOLLY LEVINSON: The players have worked very hard to achieve equal workplace conditions.

GOLDMAN: But Levinson hedged when it came to Parlow Cone's proclamation of a new reality for U.S. Soccer.

LEVINSON: Until we get to that moment when the U.S. Soccer Federation recognizes that the women's play is valued equally to the men's play, we aren't at a great day yet.

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UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Equal pay. Equal pay. Equal pay. Equal pay.

GOLDMAN: The equal pay issue has made the soccer folk heroes as relevant off the field. Despite popular support for the U.S. women's quest, a federal judge, in May, rejected the part of their discrimination lawsuit that called for pay equal to the U.S. men. But now, with the workplace issues resolved, the women can appeal the decision and will, says Levinson, ASAP. In a conference call yesterday with reporters, Parlow Cone noted how the two sides reached the workplace settlement in a collaborative way, with a lot of back-and-forth and listening.

PARLOW CONE: It is my hope that we continue down this path and are able to find a resolution on all aspects of this litigation.

GOLDMAN: Any conversation about pay can get complicated. The U.S. women's and men's pay structures are different in ways that sometimes make comparisons difficult. Soccer's international governing body, FIFA, pays women much less in World Cup bonuses. Levinson worries a back-and-forth dialogue about all of this will cloud what the women say is quite simple - equal pay for equal play. Parlow Cone says the federation is 100% committed to that for a team that's the best in the world seeking paychecks to match. Tom Goldman, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.