Aug. 8, 2020

Becky Sauerbrunn (USA): Soccer & Equal Pay

Becky Sauerbrunn (USA): Soccer & Equal Pay

Becky is the captain of the US Women's National Soccer Team and has been the rock of the back line for the last 8 years. She's an Olympic gold medalist and has played in both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, won the 2015 and 2019 World Cup championships, and recently became the US Women's National Team Players Association President. Alongside teammates Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan and former teammate, Hope Solo, she brought forth a pay discrimination lawsuit against US Soccer. In this episode, Becky and her boyfriend, Zola discuss her experience as an elite female athlete and their take on Judge Klausner's recent ruling on the pay equity and conditions lawsuit. Experts interviewed include Dr. David Berri, Dr. Jeni Klugman, and Dr. Laurie Essig. Audio clip from Just Not Sports, Ep. 77: USWNT's Becky Sauerbrunn Loves Sci-Fi & Fantasy (3:57-4:11)

Show Notes

Before 1900, no women were allowed to compete in the Olympic Games.  When they were finally welcomed 120 years ago, their participation was limited to five sports deemed appropriate.  In London in 2012, women were finally represented across all sports, and the highly anticipated Tokyo games stand to have the highest female representation ever.  In light of all the progress that has been made, it may be tempting to think that there is no gender discrimination here at home.  However, differences in pay and treatment, represented by the story of today’s guest - Becky Sauerbrunn - demonstrate that there is still a long way to go.


Professional soccer player Becky is a defender on the US Women’s National Team, as well as an Olympic gold medalist who competed in both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.  She co-captained the 2016 team, and is training to compete again in Tokyo.  In 2015 and 2019, she and her teammates won the FIFA Women’s World Cup, and Becky recently became the USWNT Players’ Association President.  She is the rock of the US defensive line, and a humble woman who leads by taking action. 

Becky’s leadership is not restricted to the field; rather, she is an integral part of the push for equitable pay and working conditions for the USWNT.  She and boyfriend Zola together share about this work, which centers on a complaint (and ensuing lawsuit) against US Soccer for violation of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Becky explains the factors at play, touching on the CBA, the EEOC, Judge Klausner, and more, while also emphasizing her commitment to keep fighting even in the face of setbacks and overt sexism. 

Becky’s comments are also complemented by the input of several expert contributors.  Dr. David Berri explains the dynamics of incentives, revenue, and fan development.  Dr. Jeni Klugman details the role of the media in perpetuating a lack of gender equity.  And finally, Dr. Laurie Essig shares about the history behind gender disparity in sports.  At the end of the conversation, listeners are left with much to think about regarding complex and interconnected social ills, a high view of the importance of sport, ideas about how to actively work for progress, and inspiration from Becky to lean into compassion.



Learn more about Becky Sauerbrunn and view her Team USA and  Portland Timbers profiles.

Connect with Becky on Twitter and Instagram.

Access updated news on the USWNT’s lawsuit.

Learn more about the Flame Bearers podcast.

Dr. David BerriProfile Photo

Dr. David Berri

Professor of Economics, Southern Utah University

Dr. David Berri is a professor of economics at Southern Utah University. He has spent the last two decades researching sports and economics, while publishing works on a variety of topics including the evaluation of players and coaches, competitive balance, the drafting of players, labor disputes, the NCAA, and gender issues in sports.

Dr. Berri was the lead author of "The Wages of Wins and Stumbling on Wins" and recently published "Sports Economics", a textbook from Macmillan Publishers. In the past, he has written on the subject of sports economics for a number of popular media outlets, including the New York Times, the,, and Vice Sports. Currently, Dr. Berri is writing for

Dr. Berri graduated from Nebraska Wesleyan University with a bachelor of arts in economics and earned both his master of arts and Ph.D. in economics from Colorado State University.

Dr. Laurie EssigProfile Photo

Dr. Laurie Essig

Director and Professor of Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies, Middlebury College

Laurie Essig is Professor of Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies at Middlebury College. She is a sociologist who teaches courses on how power shapes our bodies and our desires Her courses include Sociology of Heterosexuality, White People, Men & Masculinities and Feminist Blogging. Her first book, Queer in Russia: A Story of Sex, Self and the Other (Duke, 1999) considered how sexual others are imagined and thus imagine themselves in Russia. Her second book, American Plastic: Credit Cards, Boob Jobs and Our Quest for Perfection (Beacon, 2010) argued that cosmetic surgery in the US is the subprime mortgage crisis of the body, with corporations squeezing profit from working class Americans who hope a more perfect body will lead to a better future.. Her most recent book, Love, Inc.: Dating Apps, the Big White Wedding, and Chasing the Happily Neverafter argues that romance as an ideology became even more powerful in the last few decades even as actual marriage rates declined. Romance promises us a safe and secure future as a private love affair even as our future is more and more precarious. Rather than demanding the necessary political and structural changes today for a secure tomorrow, we are too busy reading romance novels, obsessing over royal weddings, or swiping through our dating apps to pay much attention to the world around us. Essig has written for a variety of publications including the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Conversation and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Dr. Jeni KlugmanProfile Photo

Dr. Jeni Klugman

Managing Director, Georgetown University's Institute for Women, Peace and Security

Dr. Jeni Klugman is Managing Director at the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security. Dr Klugman’s previous positions include Director of Gender and Development at the World Bank, fellow at the Kennedy School of Government’s Women in Public Policy Program at Harvard University, and director and lead author of three global Human Development Reports published by the UNDP. She has published over a dozen books and major global reports, and (co)authored over 70 articles in peer-reviewed journals and books. She regularly participates in major global gender policy initiatives, including most recently the Lancet Series on Gender Equality; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s strategy on women’s economic empowerment; and the Council on Foreign Relations’ Advisory Committee on Economic Inclusion and Global Growth.

She is currently a member of The Lancet Global Commission on Gender and Health; advising VicHealth, Australia to bring behavioral insights to advancing gender equality; UN Women, the World Bank and partners on justice for women; the World Bank on the gender dimensions of forced displacement; and working with the UN Development Program on human mobility. Jeni holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the Australian National University and postgraduate degrees in both Law and Development Economics from the University of Oxford where she was a Rhodes Scholar. She was included in the Apolitical Inaugural List of the World’s 100 Most Influential People in Gender Policy in 2018 and in 2019.