The United States women’s hockey team has gained powerful allies.
The team is currently boycotting the upcoming IIHF World Championship in Michigan and demanding equitable support for women’s hockey by USA Hockey. Over the weekend, reports surfaced that the men’s team is considering withdrawing from their own World Championship in solidarity with their women’s team colleagues.
Now, U.S. senators are getting involved. On Monday, Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren and her colleagues delivered a letter to USA Hockey executive director Dave Ogrean.
In a statement, the senators (all Democrats) write the USWNT athletes “indeed deserve fairness and respect, and we hope you will be a leader on this issue as women continue to push for equality in athletics.”
Warren and her colleagues also cite federal law, which requires programs like USA Hockey to provide the equitable support the women’s team is requesting.
USAH has an emergency conference call at noon to try and resolve the USWNT boycott. Read about all that's happened: https://t.co/an0HkDdBWr— The Ice Garden (@TheIceGarden) March 27, 2017
The women’s national team outlined their goals when they announced the boycott on March 15. Beyond fair wages (the players earn only $6,000 every four years), the players want to see more developmental support from USA Hockey and marketing efforts.
USA Hockey spends $3.5 million annually for the men’s national development team program. No such program exists for women’s hockey.
Here’s the full letter the senators sent to USA Hockey executive director Dave Ogrean.
The text of the letter is below:
March 27, 2017
1775 Bob Johnson Drive
Colorado Springs, CO 80906
Dear Mr. Ogrean,
As Senators committed to gender equity in all realms of American life, we write to express our serious concern with allegations raised by members of the U.S. Women's National Hockey Team regarding USA Hockey's inequitable allocation of resources to the women's hockey program and unjust treatment of national team members.
As you know, the women's team has chosen to boycott the upcoming International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship games, citing faltering negotiations with USA Hockey regarding equitable pay and resources. Among other issues, the women note that USA Hockey expects female players to "train full time and compete throughout the year," yet pays them only $6,000 every four years, an amount that would put them far below the poverty line. The women's team is in the process of negotiating a four-year contract with USA Hockey that includes "appropriate compensation."
As the National Governing Body for ice hockey in the United States, USA Hockey is required by the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act to "develop interest and participation throughout the United States" in ice hockey and "be responsible to the persons and amateur sports organizations it represents." USA Hockey is also legally required to "provide equitable support and encouragement for participation by women where separate programs for male and female athletes are conducted on a national basis."
We are disturbed by reports from the U.S. Women's National Hockey Team suggesting that USA Hockey is not providing "equitable support" to female athletes. While USA Hockey provides its male athletes with a "seemingly endless" supply of hockey equipment, for example, female players are often expected to "buy their own." This "inequitable support for equipment, staff, meals, travel expenses, transportation, and publicity" is apparent at younger levels of the sport as well: while USA Hockey spends $3.5 million to support male youth athletes in its National Team Development Program, there is no parallel development program for women.
The U.S. Women's National Hockey Team has medaled in every Olympics since 1998, when Women's Hockey was first added as an Olympic Sport. The team has won gold medals at the IIHF World Championships for the past three years in a row. As Megan Duggan, team captain, announced last week, the women's team has "represented our country with dignity and deserves to be treated with fairness and respect."
We urge you to resolve this dispute quickly to ensure that the USA Women's National Hockey Team receives equitable resources. These elite athletes indeed deserve fairness and respect, and we hope you will be a leader on this issue as women continue to push for equality in athletics.
Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts
Patty Murray, Washington
Dianne Feinstein, Cailfornia
Patrick Leahy, Vermont
Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut
Maggie Hassan, New Hampshire
Sherrod Brown, Ohio
Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts
Thomas Carper, Delaware
Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin
Robert Menendez, New Jersey
Mazie K. Hirono, Hawaii
Cory Booker, New Jersey
Bob Casey, Pennsylvania
Kirsten Gillibrand, New York
Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota