The federation reportedly hired FBB Federal Relations and Van Ness Feldman, both based in Washington, D.C., as Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) are pushing a bill that would require all national teams in the U.S. to offer equal compensation for men and women.
U.S. Soccer later confirmed it had hired the firms to ESPN.
The equal pay bill was introduced after the national women’s team brought home its fourth World Cup title in July. Months before the tournament, 28 players from the women’s team filed a class-action gender discrimination lawsuit against U.S. Soccer, claiming they were paid less than players on the men’s team.
According to Politico, the lobbying firms created and circulated a presentation that highlights the benefits that only the women’s soccer team receives, including a guaranteed salary, maternity leave and nanny subsidy, and health insurance and 401(k) benefits.
The men’s team has a separate collective bargaining agreement, as well as a different pay schedule, that operates much differently than the agreement for the women’s team, according to The Associated Press.
Molly Levinson, a spokeswoman for the players involved in the gender-discrimination lawsuit, told the political news site that lobbyists “inflated and cherry-picked numbers” in their presentation on women’s and men’s team pay.
The presentation contained information similar to a fact sheet and letter published by U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro, which claimed that the federation pays the women’s team more than the men.
In response to that letter, Levinson refuted Cordeiro’s claims and accused him of trying to undermine “the overwhelming tide of support” that the women’s team has received in its efforts for equal pay.
“The USSF has repeatedly admitted that it does not pay the women equally and that it does not believe the women even deserve to be paid equally,” Levinson told ESPN at the time. “This is why they use words like ‘fair’ and ‘equitable,’ not ‘equal,’ in describing pay.”
U.S. Soccer spokesman Neil Buethe said in a statement that the federation hired the lobbying firms in response to a “large number of requests” from policymakers received since the Women’s World Cup, according to ESPN and Politico.
“We are taking the proper steps to make sure that those leaders have accurate information and factual numbers that will inform them about the unmatched support and investment the U.S. Soccer Federation has provided as a leader in women’s football across the world.”