Democratic senators introduced a bill on June 9 that would prohibit the appropriation of federal funds for the 2026 World Cup, which the U.S. is set to co-host, “until the date on which the United States Soccer Federation agrees to provide equitable pay” to the members of the men’s and women’s U.S. national soccer teams. The U.S. Women’s National Team has been in a long running dispute over claims of discrimination in pay based on sex, with that litigation now set for appeal. A fact sheet published for the Give Our Athletes Level Salaries (GOALS) Act states that members of the Women’s National Team make only 89% of the compensation of a similarly situated men’s player, apparently relying on an analysis by The Washington Post from 2019, which highlighted, in particular, the large gap in FIFA prize money awarded to men’s and women’s teams. Representatives of the WNT argue the Federation has an obligation to provide equal pay regardless of the discrimination at the level of FIFA. In a press conference on June 15, USSF president Cindy Parlow-Cone said the WNT’s request for the USSF to pay the difference between the men’s and women’s compensation for World Cup victories would likely bankrupt the Federation but that she is interested in pursuing other options, such as a hybrid pooling model that would place men’s and women’s collective prize money into a pool with both teams awarded an equal percentage of the pool each year.
With state laws set to grant name, image, and likeness (“NIL”) rights to college athletes as soon as July 1, the Senate Commerce Committee held hearings the past two weeks as Congress considers implementing federal legislation to preempt otherwise inevitable conflicts with NCAA rules and a patchwork legal landscape. The narrow discussion over NIL was in many ways overshadowed by broader concerns regarding player health and safety, suggesting that the foundation of college athletics may continue to shift in ways that treat student-athletes more like employees. Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.), a former football player at Stanford University who last year introduced broadly sweeping college sports legislation, has insisted that federal lawmakers address issues such as gender equity, health care, and athlete exploitation. The June 17 hearing was Congress’ first opportunity to hear from current and former college athletes themselves, and testimony about the physical and mental health of student-athletes was a major theme.
“No pain, no gain” has taken on new meaning for the NFL in the past two weeks. In a years-long suit by former players alleging the league breached its duty to limit the amount and type of medications that teams’ medical staffs provided, the NFL argued that the court should deny class certification on the basis that interactions between thousands of players and hundreds of medical staff over 35 years presents too many individual questions. The proposed class of former players alleges that the league forced them to take painkillers to stay on the field, with teams pushing opioids, anti-inflammatories, and local anesthetics without required prescriptions. Meanwhile, the NFL and the NFL Players Association announced that their joint pain management committee will be funding up to $1 million in grants supporting research for alternatives to opioids for pain treatment, including cannabis and CBD. The announcement comes as more players have been asking team medical personnel about using the products for pain management and as the NFL and union loosened the league’s substance abuse policy in the new CBA reached last year.