USWNT To Boycott World Championships

The United States Women’s National Team and USA Hockey have been in a dispute for months over fair wages and equitable support compared to the USMNT. They have threatened to boycott the IIHF World Championships, which begins in two weeks in Plymouth, Mich. And their threats have turned into action as today they announced they will not play in their own country unless USA Hockey ponies up and meets the desires of the women’s team.

Here’s the statement from USWNT, via Hilary Knight:

The members of the U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team announce that we will not be playing in the 2017 IIHF Women’s World Championship in Plymouth, Michigan, unless significant progress has been made on the year-long negotiations with USA Hockey over fair wages and equitable support.

We have asked USA Hockey for equitable support as required by the Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act. Specifically, we have asked for equitable support in the areas of financial compensation, youth team development, equipment, travel expenses, hotel accommodations, meals, staffing, transportation, marketing and publicity.

The goals of our requests are to achieve fair treatment from USA Hockey, to initiate appropriate steps to correct the outlined issues, and to move forward with a shared goal of promoting and growing girls and women in our sport while representing the United States in future competitions, including the Women’s World Championship.

Putting on the USA jersey represents the culmination of many years of hard work and sacrifice that reflect our love of both hockey and country. In making these requests, we are simply asking USA Hockey to comply with the law.

Their demands for fair treatment, pay, and support equals another sport where the United States has the No. 1 ranked women’s team in the world while the men get more financial support off the field and underachieve on the field: soccer.

Five members of the US women’s soccer team went as far as filing a wage discrimination lawsuit against United States Soccer Federation (USSF) in 2016. That lawsuit cited figures from the USSF’s 2015 financial report, says that “despite the women’s team generating nearly $20 million more revenue last year than the U.S. men’s team, the women are paid about a quarter of what the men earn.” It should also be noted that in 2015 the women’s team played 13 matches across the United States leading up to and following their FIFA World Cup title in Canada. The men’s team played 14 matches in the country that year, including six in the CONCACAF Gold Cup and one match that began qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

For comparison, the US men’s hockey team is currently ranked fourth in the world and the men’s soccer team is ranked 30th.

Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, a two-time Olympic silver medalist, pointed the pay scale they currently receive. “Out of a four-year cycle, USA Hockey pays for only six months out of an entire four years. They pay us $1,000 per month in those six months. So, for the other 42 months we don’t get paid at all by USA Hockey,” she said. “It is a full-time job, and to not get paid is a financial burden and stress on the players, obviously. That is the conversation my husband and I are having right now. Is playing going to be more stress than we can handle? Sadly it becomes a decision between chasing your dream or giving in to the reality of the financial burden.”

USA Hockey wrote a statement today in response to the boycott. They too pointed out some of the benefits they receive, which could become lucrative should they win gold next year.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – USA Hockey understands the challenges elite athletes face in order to pursue their dreams of participating in international competition, including the Olympics. USA Hockey, along with the United States Olympic Committee, provides the Women’s National Team players financial support, as well as training opportunities, camps, and strength and conditioning programs, to help these athletes and give them the best chance to succeed.

“We acknowledge the players’ concerns and have proactively increased our level of direct support to the Women’s National Team as we prepare for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games,” said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey. “We have communicated that increased level of support to the players’ representatives and look forward to continuing our discussions.”

The support USA Hockey is implementing in order to prepare the Women’s National Team for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games includes a six-month training camp, additional support stipends and incentives for medals that could result in each player receiving nearly $85,000 in cash over the Olympic training and performance period. The sum is in addition to a housing allowance, travel allowances, meal expenses, medical and disability insurance and the infrastructure that includes elite-level support staff to train and prepare the players.

USA Hockey has a long-standing commitment to the support, advancement and growth of girls and women’s hockey and any claims to the contrary are unfounded.

USA Hockey is invested in the growth and development of girls and women at every level of play. As a matter of fact, USA Hockey has grown participation in girl’s and women’s hockey from just more than 23,000 players in 1998 to more than 73,000 today.

USA Hockey’s international programs have enjoyed amazing success in women’s hockey. This includes winning a gold or silver medal in each of the 17 women’s world championships, winning a medal in every Olympic Games since the sport was added to the Olympics in 1998, and playing in the gold medal game of every U18 women’s world championship.

While USA Hockey is disappointed that players from the Women’s National Team program have said today they do not intend to participate in the upcoming IIHF Women’s World Championship unless their financial demands are met, USA Hockey remains committed to continuing dialogue and will field a competitive team for the upcoming 2017 IIHF Women’s World Championship in Plymouth, Michigan.

“In our role as the national governing body, USA Hockey trains and selects teams for international competition,” said Jim Smith, president of USA Hockey. “USA Hockey’s role is not to employ athletes and we will not do so. USA Hockey will continue to provide world-leading support for our athletes.”

Stay tuned for updates regarding this developing situation.

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