You may not see Team USA on the ice at the women’s hockey world championships, which begin on March 30, in Michigan.
Players on the U.S. women’s national team are planning to boycott the tournament over what they consider pathetically low wages and a general lack of support from USA Hockey, the team’s governing association.
The athletes are reportedly paid just $1,000 a month during the six-month Olympic residency period and “virtually nothing” the other 3.5 years between Olympic games — even though they continue to train and compete in other events. Astoundingly, many of the players hold second and third jobs to make ends meet.
Fortunately, it appears lots of other people — including a handful of powerful U.S. senators and stars on the U.S. men’s team — are in the women’s corner.
In response to the charges of unfair wages and benefits, Team USA players spread the word using the hashtag #BeBoldForChange.
Their many supporters followed suit.
Hannah Beckman, a New Jersey Rocket, wants to play on Team USA someday, but under much fairer circumstances.
Olympic medalist Julie Chu of the Les Canadiennes knows that taking a stand takes guts, and she’s committed to standing strong.
Johnny Laursen, who plays for the USA Warriors, a team made of wounded service members, said “silent is what [he] won’t be.”
Tennis champion Billie Jean King spoke out in support of equality too.
US Women’s Hockey team is taking a stand for equality. Being a world class athlete should not be treated as a part time job.
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) March 16, 2017
And Amanda Kessel, who plays on the women’s team, said she’s sitting this one out for all the younger players watching at home…
Players like Daria, a future hockey star.
And Annie, who knows she can hang with boys on the ice too.
And every other girl who deserves better than the status quo.
On March 27, the women’s team gained a handful of other high profile supporters: 14 U.S. senators.
In a fiery letter to USA Hockey executive director Dave Ogrean, more than a dozen senators — including Elizabeth Warren, Dianne Feinstein, and Cory Booker — asked the organization hear out the players’ demands and respond appropriately.
“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,” the senators wrote, noting the inequality goes far beyond a paycheck. “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.'”
Here is an excerpt from the full letter:
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.
It appears as though USA Hockey hasn’t taken the team’s demands all that seriously thus far.
Last week, after players began announcing plans to sit out, the organization started reaching out to second- and third-tier players to fill the roster. In an act of solidarity, many of those athletes — including goalie Brittany Ott, whose tweet is below — have refused to step in and play.
News of the boycott has been rumbling online in recent weeks, as more and more groups — including athlete unions representing the NHL, NBA, NFL, and MLB — have spoken out in support of the women’s team.
On March 26, athlete agent Allan Walsh reported the U.S. men’s team might even boycott their world championship games in solidarity with the women’s team.
They’re scheduled to play in France and Germany in May.
Word circulating among NHL players that American players will refuse to play in men’s World Championships in solidarity with the women.
— Allan Walsh (@walsha) March 26, 2017
It’s important to note that while athletes on the men’s and women’s teams are paid equally by USA Hockey, all of the men are NHL players — their paychecks from being on the national team is a drop in the bucket. It’s a different story for the women.
As writer Jessica Luther pointed out online, if the men’s team follows through with their own boycott, it’s a great example of turning allyship into real action.
The women’s boycott, however, may be avoidable if all goes well at a USA Hockey emergency board meeting being held on March 27.
Board members are expected to vote on a deal that reportedly includes significant wage increases and improved benefits for players.
“[Reaching a deal with better wages and benefits] is our chance to make history for every woman on the ice today and every little girl who’s just lacing up her skates for the first time,” women’s team forward Hilary Knight explained to USA Today. “We’re hopeful for them and for us that we’ll get the change that is long overdue.”
This article may be updated with information on the board meeting vote.