Ending boycott, women score one for equality

Contract assures financial, marketing parity with men

February 02, 2000|By Lowell E. Sunderland | Lowell E. Sunderland,SUN STAFF

Players who make the U.S. women's national soccer team will have parity -- financially and from a marketing standpoint -- with the men's team for the first time under a new contract outlined in New York City yesterday.

The five-year contract, agreed to Friday, but made public at a U.S. Soccer Federation news conference yesterday, ended the two-month-old boycott by players who won last summer's third Women's World Cup, by all measures the most successful women's sports event ever.

U.S. captain Carla Overbeck, a national-team player for 12 years and one of the negotiators, called the contract "a huge step" because it "assures that the younger players can pursue the sport full-time, on a professional basis, without having to get other jobs to support themselves, like we've had to."

Federation spokesmen said the 20 World Cup champions and others called to the team who have 10 international "caps" or more will each get a guaranteed $5,000 monthly year-round until a pro league starts, up from $3,180 paid only during training camps before.

New players will start at $3,500. Players also will receive undisclosed bonuses for winning high-profile tournaments, such as the Olympics later this year and the next World Cup.

Those players cut will receive three months severance pay, a new provision, and the contract provides maternity pay. Players who want to retain college eligibility cannot be paid under NCAA regulations.

The year-round proviso ends once a pro league starts, possibly next year, with monthly guarantees then being paid only during national-team training and competition -- as happens with the men's national team now.

Alan I. Rothenberg, the former federation president who helped negotiate the new terms, shouldered the blame for not reaching an agreement sooner. He attributed the delay to "miscommunication" and a "misunderstanding" on his part of how strongly the women's team felt about reaching a new deal.

"We responded to what we felt was fair and necessary, rather than any tactics," Rothenberg said.

He said contract language assures the federation's equal promotion of the women's and men's teams, which until about two years ago, clearly was not the case.

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