Player's Own Voice

Player's Own Voice podcast: Soccer player Becky Sauerbrunn aims to export equity after historic deal

CBC Sports' Player's Own Voice podcast begins season six with one of the most influential athletes in the history of women's soccer.

U.S. women's captain wants pay-equity model duplicated worldwide

Becky Sauerbrunn is shown during an international friendly soccer match against Portugal in Philadelphia in 2019. (Matt Slocum/The Associated Press)

In the ever-expanding universe of women's soccer, very few stars shine brighter than the captain of the United States national team, Becky Sauerbrunn. With more than 200 caps and counting, her contributions on the pitch have filled scores of highlight reels.

So it seems strange to say her biggest impact, and likely her most lasting legacy, will be Sauerbrunn's work off the field, largely behind the scenes.

Sauerbrunn was one of the original five women who summoned the determination to put their livelihood on the line and go into battle with their employer for equal pay and equitable treatment. On today's season six debut episode of Player's Own Voice podcast, Sauerbrunn acknowledges that the six-year, back-and-forth was a nerve-racking experience.

She details how those years were marked by a number of small milestones. The American men's and women's national teams were not very close allies at the dispute's outset, back in 2016, but by the time the dust settled, Sauerbrunn says the solidarity of the men's squad was a key to getting deals done.

The women's players sued the U.S. Soccer Federation in 2019, seeking damages under the federal Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Three years later, a $24-million US settlement was reached.

Pay, though obviously important, is a relatively straightforward issue. Equitable treatment requires a lot more ongoing effort and thought. Coaching, facilities, travel, health care — the areas of discrepancy and unequal treatment extend into so many aspects of the elite athlete's experience.

Podcast host Anastasia Bucsis asks Sauerbrunn the simple question: What's next? Canadians take note — for the captain and her like-minded teammates, a goal now is to help spread their know-how and collective bargaining experience to women and sports federations around the world. 

Starting with their '"frenemies" to the north.

Like the CBC Sports' Player's Own Voice essay series, POV podcast lets athletes speak to Canadians about issues from a personal perspective.

We have a transcript for our hard-of-hearing audience. To listen to Beckie Sauerbrunn or any of the guests from earlier episodes, and more Canadian athletes — many of them recorded live during the recent Olympics and Paralympics — head to CBC Listen or wherever else you get your podcasts.

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