Strikes, forced play under “protest,” and the battle for equal pay

By: Janaye Godfrey, Associate Editor 

If you google: “Which player has the most international soccer goals?” the results produce many links about Cristiano Ronaldo, a male Portuguese professional soccer player who has 118 goals in international play. However, it is not until you go back to the search box and add the word “female” to the terms that you become surprised to find out it is actually Christine Sinclair, a female Canadian professional soccer player who has 189 goals in international play. 

The Canadian Women’s National Soccer Team stands as a powerhouse team amongst all current soccer teams. The Canadian Women’s Olympic Team, which many of the National Team players are also a part of, won gold at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Currently, these Olympians are fighting for equal pay in Canada. The Canadian Soccer Association oversees the team and is the governing body for soccer in Canada. The players released a statement describing their outrage with the National Federation significantly cutting their funding. Many of the women are feeling frustrated and disrespected by Canada Soccer after coming off of a gold medal win at the Tokyo Olympics. These women demanded immediate change and are currently being backed by their male counterpart. 

On February 10, 2023, the Women’s Team believed the only way to achieve this change in equality was by striking at the SheBelieves Cup, set to be played in the United States. Unfortunately, Canada Soccer threatened the players with legal action, thereby cancelling the strike. The action could have resulted in millions of dollars in damages if Canada Soccer proved it to be an unlawful strike. On February 15, the players stated that they would be participating in the SheBelieves Cup under “protest” after its equity dispute with the National Federation remained unresolved. The players decided to wear purple ahead of their first match of the tournament which has historically been linked with efforts to achieve gender equality. Additionally, the players showed up to practice wearing unbranded gear and inside-out shirts to hide the Canada Soccer logo on their practice uniforms. 

These female Canadian soccer players desire something akin to the historic equal-pay deal won by the United States Women’s National Team from their federation just last year. The United States Women’s National Team filed a federal gender discrimination suit against United States Soccer in 2019. The lawsuit drew international attention, prompting fans to chant “Equal Pay!” when the United States won the Women’s World Cup in France. The lawsuit settled in February 2019 with United States Soccer agreeing to pay the women $24 million. Additionally, the unions agreed to pool FIFA’s payments for the next Men’s and Women’s World Cups, as well as for the 2026 and 2027 tournaments. 

With the Women’s World Cup approaching this summer, many players argue that they must prepare to perform at a world-class level with significant cuts to their program and without the same level of support received by the Men’s National Team in 2022. Although women’s sports across the discipline have shown they can compete and bring in the same caliber of fans as their male counterparts, the disparity in payment persists. These Canadian women continue their labor disputes over equal pay and heroically pave the way for future female players, who will hopefully not have to fight this up-hill battle. 



Works Cited: 

Ameé Ruszkai, More international goals than Ronaldo & Messi: Meet Christine Sinclair, Canada’s record-breaking star, Goal (Feb. 22, 2023), 

Zayn Nabbi, Canada women’s soccer team play tournament under ‘protest’ as dispute over pay equity rumbles on, CNN (Feb. 16, 2023, 9:25 AM), 

Isabel Gonzalez, Canada women’s soccer labor dispute, explained: Why the national team went on strike over budget cuts, (Feb. 19, 2023, 8:48 PM), 

Anne M. Peterson, U.S. men’s and women’s soccer teams formally sign equal pay agreements, PBS (Sep. 6, 2022 10:05 PM),,World%20Cup%20final%20in%20France.&text=In%20February%2C%20the%20two%20sides,pay%20the%20women%20%2424%20million.

Jesse Campigotto, What’s next for the Canadian women’s soccer and hockey teams?, CBC Sports (Feb. 23, 2023, 3:56 PM),  

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