03.28.17

Leahy And Other Democratic Senators Call On USA Hockey To Treat Women's National Hockey Team Fairly

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy and a group of other Democratic senators are raising several concerns about the inequitable treatment of U.S. Women's National Hockey Team players.  Their letter is addressed to the Executive Director of USA Hockey Dave Ogrean.  In addition to Leahy, the letter is signed by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Thomas Carper (D-Del.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Bob Casey (D-Pa.).

The U.S. Women's National Hockey Team reports that USA Hockey, the national governing body for ice hockey in the United States, does not provide "appropriate compensation" or "equitable support" to women athletes. Following faltering negotiations with USA Hockey seeking fair pay and equal resources, the team, including UVM graduate and native Vermonter Amanda Pelkey, has chosen to boycott this year's International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship games.
 
"We urge you to resolve this dispute quickly to ensure that the USA Women's National Hockey Team receives equitable resources," wrote the senators. "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."

The letter to USA Hockey builds on Leahy’s record of pushing for equal treatment for women athletes.  In 2016 he joined a letter with other leading Democratic legislators urging the U.S. Soccer Federation to provide equal pay and treatment to women athletes.  He also introduced a 2015 resolution calling on FIFA to eliminate gender discrimination between male and female athletes.  Leahy was an original cosponsor the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, passed in 2009 to help protect workers from pay discrimination, and he annually hosts a Women’s Economic Opportunity Conference at Vermont Technical College.

USA Hockey is required by federal law to "provide equitable support and encouragement for participation by women where separate programs for male and female athletes are conducted on a national basis."  Women players commit to a fulltime schedule of training and competition, but are paid only $6,000 every four years, and are often expected to purchase their own equipment.  In addition, USA Hockey provides no national developmental program for women, while spending millions to support young male athletes. 
 
The U.S. Women's National Hockey Team has won gold medals at the IIHF World Championships the past three years, in addition to medaling in every Olympics since Women's Hockey was first added as an Olympic Sport in 1998.

The text of the letter is below:

March 27, 2017
Dave Ogrean
Executive Director
USA Hockey
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.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts 
Patty Murray, Washington
Dianne Feinstein, California
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 

Press Contact

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