Members of the U.S. women’s ice hockey team announced Wednesday that they would be boycotting the upcoming world championships unless “significant progress” is made between the team and USA Hockey over the team’s wages and support structure. Forward Amanda Kessel was one of a number of players — 21 out of 23 on the team’s world championship roster — to tweet out the following statement:
— Amanda Kessel (@AmandaKessel8) March 15, 2017
Hilary Knight, another member of the team, told NBC Sports that — barring significant progress in the negotiations — the team’s decision would have been the same had it been an Olympic year. The U.S. women have won a medal at each of the five Olympics at which women’s ice hockey has been contested (one gold, three silvers and a bronze).
“I think that speaks volumes, really, to the unity of our group, but also how passionate we are about standing up for equitable support,” she said.
The world championships are March 31-April 7 in Michigan, and the U.S. women were scheduled to attend training camp starting next week.
“We are asking for a living wage and for USA Hockey to fully support its programs for women and girls and stop treating us like an afterthought,” team captain Meghan Duggan said in a statement issued by the law firm that is representing the team. “We have represented our country with dignity and deserve to be treated with fairness and respect.”
According to the law-firm statement, the U.S. women claim they are paid only during the six-month period that precedes the Olympics, and then only $1,000 per month. For the rest of the time between Olympics, USA Hockey pays them “virtually nothing,” the statement says, “despite its expectation that in each of the non-Olympic years, the players train full time and compete throughout the year, including in the World Championships.” The hockey players maintain this is a violation of the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, which mandates that U.S. national governing bodies provide equitable support for men’s and women’s teams when they compete in separate programs.
As an example, the women claim USA Hockey spends approximately $3.5 million to support its boys’ National Team Development Program but does not conduct a comparable program for girls.
“We acknowledge the players’ concerns and have proactively increased our level of direct support to the Women’s National Team as we prepare for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games,” Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey, said in a statement. “We have communicated that increased level of support to the players’ representatives and look forward to continuing our discussions.”
USA Hockey said that its support for the women’s team in preparation for the world championships “includes a six-month training camp, additional support stipends and incentives for medals that could result in each player receiving nearly $85,000 in cash over the Olympic training and performance period. The sum is in addition to a housing allowance, travel allowances, meal expenses, medical and disability insurance and the infrastructure that includes elite-level support staff to train and prepare the players.”
“While USA Hockey is disappointed that players from the Women’s National Team program have said today they do not intend to participate in the upcoming IIHF Women’s World Championship unless their financial demands are met,” the organization said, “USA Hockey remains committed to continuing dialogue and will field a competitive team.”
Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, a two-time Olympic silver medalist for the U.S., tweeted that USA Hockey’s statements were “misleading and dishonest.” Through its law firm, the women’s team issued this official response:
“The statement issued by USA Hockey today in response to our decision to sit out the World Championships is misleading. It suggests that USA Hockey is prepared to pay the players $85,000 during the Olympic year. That is simply not true and no such offer was ever extended. In its public statement, USA Hockey has coupled their contributions with payments made by the U.S. Olympic Committee, which pays gold medal-winning athletes more than $60,000. Further, it covers only the Olympic period and does not offer anything for each of the other three years during which a World Championship is played. Lastly, it does nothing to address the marketing and training support that is not on par with what it provides to the men’s and boys’ teams.”
Alex Morgan, a member of the U.S. women’s soccer team that also is fighting for equal pay, tweeted out her support.