Megan Rapinoe
Megan Rapinoe of the US, Ballon d’Or Feminin winner last year, had been feisty champion for the cause of women footballers. Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: US football star and captain Megan Rapinoe has promised to continue the fight after a federal judge dismissed the United States women’s team bid for equal pay late on Friday.

The US women’s team – champions of the last two Fifa World Cup editions in 2015 and 2019 – had bid for equal pay with the men’s team. Judge Gary Klausner of the US District Court for Central California in Los Angeles rejected the women’s claim of pay discrimination while ruling in favour of the United States Soccer Federation (USSF).

The judge, however, did allow the women’s case for unfair treatment in areas such as travel, housing and medical support to proceed to trial and a fresh date of June 16 has been set to handle this matter in Los Angeles.

In a 32-page judgement, Klausner said the equal pay claims - the main basis of the case tabled by the women’s team - had been dismissed because there was evidence the women had in fact earlier turned down an offer to be paid along the lines of the US men’s team.

Stunned by the judgement, the US women have responded strongly with Rapinoe pledging to chase down their legal right of seeking back pay of $66 million (Dhs 241 million) under the Equal Pay Act.

Megan Rapinoe jumps on top of her teammates as they celebrate a goal by co-captain Alex Morgan during the Women's World Cup last year. Image Credit: AFP

Rapinoe was the quickest to respond to the court order. “We will never stop fighting for EQUALITY,” she said on Twitter immediately.

Molly Levinson, the official spokesperson for the US women’s team, also admitted that the battle is not yet done. “We are shocked and disappointed with the decision, but we will not give up our hard work for equal pay,” she said.

“We are confident in our case and steadfast in our commitment to ensuring that girls and women who play this sport will not be valued as lesser just because of their gender. We have learned that there are tremendous obstacles to change; we know that it takes bravery and courage and perseverance to stand up to them,” she added.

Rapinoe plays both as a midfielder or winger for the US national team, that among other things have won the 2015 and 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cups. She won the Ballon d’Or Feminin and was also named the best Fifa Women’s player in 2019. In the past, the 34-year-old has also won gold with the US team at the 2012 London Olympics. She is co-captain of the team along with senior pros Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan.

The increasingly acrimonious lawsuit had taken a dramatic turn in March, when the lawyers for the federation argued that US men’s team players required a “higher level of skill based on speed and strength” than the women. This had triggered outrage among the women while influential sponsors such as CocaCola had openly voiced disgust.

The USSF President Carlos Cordeiro later resigned in the aftermath of the uproar, even as Rapinoe accused the USSF of “blatant sexism” in its legal filings.

The US women earned total prize money of $6 million over their two wins in 2015 and 2019, while Germany’s men’s team won $35 million for their win in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, while France earned $38 million after their triumph at 2018 Russia.