US Women Will Boycott Hockey World Championship

Pay them

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Mar 17, 2017 at 4:05 PM ET

The US Women’s National Hockey Team, fighting low wages and stalled negotiations, was given a firm ultimatum by USA Hockey: confirm by 5 p.m. Thursday that they would show up for training camp or decline so the federation can go on without them. They declined abd will strike during the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship.

Many of the players on Team USA’s roster also play in the National Women’s Hockey League, which experienced sudden pay decreases recently. The 38 percent cut would have been worse had Dunkin’ Donuts not pledged $50,000 directly to player salaries to lessen the hit. The NWHL minimum salary was a mere $10,000 before the decrease, so it’s reasonable to believe the players were hoping on improved income from international competition.

Right now, each Team USA player receives $1,000 per month in the six months leading up to the Olympic games, which is —*does the math*—complete garbage. The disparity is even more pronounced when weighed against the roughly $3.5 million a year Team USA invests in their boy’s development program, or the $440,000 that women’s executive director Dave Ogrean earned in 2014.

Not only would it be a nice gesture to keep women’s wages above the poverty line, USA Hockey’s women’s teams have dominated international play, finishing no lower than second in international competition since 1990. Oh, and they’ve regularly surpassed the men’s Team USA.  During the 2014 Sochi Games, the women’s team won the silver medal, while the men’s team finished in fourth.

If the narrative of women outperforming men in their respective vocation without getting a commensurate paycheck sounds familiar, then you may remember the US Women’s National Soccer Team’s complaints about their unfair salary structure which effectively forbids them from earning as much as their male counterparts. (Or, you have a passing familiarity with aggregate gender wage disparities in just about any industry.)

Evan Davis, writing for FiveThirtyEight, broke down how US Soccer’s pay scale works against the far better team:

If the women’s salaries were replaced with the men’s bonus figures for friendlies, players would have earned $109,600 in 2015, nearly $40,000 more than their $72,000 national team salary — and that’s before we include any other bonuses or fees they’d receive for being named to tournament rosters and other non-game events.

While U.S. Soccer is not responsible for FIFA prize money, it’s worth noting that the men’s prize money for losing in the round of 16 amounted to $9 million. The women’s prize money for winning the whole tournament was $2 million.

Beyond the strain on their bottom line, the lack of respect  troubled the national team. Team USA captain Meghan Duggan released a statement with her teammates asking for a “living wage” and for USA Hockey to “stop treating us like an afterthought.” The statement was released through Ballard Spahn LLP, a law firm giving the women pro bono representation. (They players probably need to save every penny since, according to the statement, half of the team works “second or third jobs.”) “I knew that we were going to come to this point,” veteran forward Hilary Knight told USA Today, “because with the history of the program and how we’ve been treated, I don’t think they’ve ever really taken us seriously.”

In a string of threaded tweets, hockey journalist Nicole Hasse shared an anecdote that encapsulates USA Hockey’s regular neglect of their women’s players. From forgetting to mention International Women’s Day on their social media page to dressing an elite collection athletes in pageant gowns, Hasse argues a second class citizenship goes beyond the embarrassing payscale:

USA Hockey released a statement responding to the women’s concerns, emphasizing their commitment to growing interest in women’s hockey, touting the potential $85,000 women can earn in the 2018 Olympic Games. That’s nice, but it ultimately eludes their wage request for this year’s tournament. It’s also, according to Duggan, extremely misleading: Much of that figure comes from medaling or the United States Olympic Committee’s financial support, not from Team USA.

USA Hockey still plans to field a “competitive team” of replacement players, showing roughly the same effort and respect their best players asked for that led them to strike in the first place.