USNWT gets $718, 750 from LUNA BAR to make World Cup roster bonuses equal to men (Alyssa Roengik - ESPNW, April 2019)
The U.S. women's national soccer team got a helping hand in its pursuit to close the pay gap with the men's program thanks to a donation of nearly three-quarters of a million dollars from LUNA Bar.
The company publicly announced its donation Tuesday in conjunction with Equal Pay Day -- but Clif Bar & Company owners and co-CEOs Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford, and Ritu Mathur, senior director of marketing for LUNA Bar, flew to Tampa to present the gift to the team at a Players Association meeting on Feb. 19. U.S. Soccer was informed of the donation Monday night.
"Gary started speaking and we were all like, 'What's the catch?'" USWNT forward Alex Morgan told espnW last week during a media day in Los Angeles organized by LUNA Bar. "But there isn't one. They want to close the gap. They want to be on the forefront of this movement."
The idea for the donation began with a conversation between LUNA Bar representatives and Becca Roux, executive director of the USWNT Players Association. "Just before the New Year, I got an email asking how LUNA Bar could support the women in their quest for equal pay," Roux said. "After that, it all went extremely fast."
Roux and her staff identified several wage gaps between the men's and women's national team programs, including the World Cup qualifying and roster bonuses, before settling on the World Cup the roster bonuses as "a clean, clear way to show a disparity," Roux said. U.S. Soccer pays members of the women's World Cup a roster bonus that is $31,250 per player less than it pays members of the men's team. To close that gap, LUNA Bar made a $718,750 donation to the Players Association with the stipulation that the money would be used to pay each of the 23 members of the 2019 World Cup team $31,250 to make up the difference. The women are also eligible for Olympic qualifying and roster bonuses (the men's tournament is restricted to players under 23), which also narrows the bonus gap if the team qualifies and competes in the three-week quadrennial tournament.
The team, which was asked to keep the donation a secret until the public announcement, joined in a federal class-action lawsuit filed March 11 against U.S. Soccer alleging institutionalized gender discrimination and seeking equitable pay and treatment.
"They did this for the whole Players Association, which is a huge statement," USWNT midfielder Megan Rapinoe said. "It forces other brands to look in the mirror, whether they want to or not. It forces our federation and other companies to ask, 'What is our responsibility and what can we do in this fight?'"
"What's cool about this donation is that so much of the fight for equal pay is exactly that -- a fight," USWNT striker Christen Press said. "We've taken a lot of pride and put a lot of energy toward that fight, and it's something that we want to be part of our legacy. It was handed to us and we will pass it to the future generation.
"In a moment like this, when LUNA comes from the outside and steps up, it shows that this fight is so much bigger than us. It celebrates how we can uplift each other. That's a slightly different message that goes beyond sport and this team and says, 'Let's all help each other. Let's swim in the same direction and we'll get so much further.'"
All three players said the reason they took the time to fly to Los Angeles for a day of media one week before kicking off a busy slate of friendlies was because they were uplifted by the opportunity to discuss pay disparity in a positive manner.
"We're so often in this position of fighting, so our voice gets boxed in," Rapinoe said. "It seems like every time we speak to the media, it's something negative, but it doesn't have to be that way. Contrary to what the federation thinks, we actually prefer to give shine and be positive. We don't see this as a zero-sum game."
Press, who was one of the chief architects of team's current collective bargaining agreement (ratified in April 2017), said she would also like to see the narrative around the USWNT's fight for equal pay shift to place less focus on comparing the women with the men's team. "I would like to see our team celebrated for who we are and not fight over who's been more successful and who deserves to be paid more," she said. "The idea of equal pay is to give both teams equal opportunity to be their most successful selves."
In addition to making the donation, LUNA Bar enlisted Press and former USWNT captain and ESPN broadcaster Julie Foudy to provide advice for women on negotiation tactics in the workplace, which will be available starting Tuesday on lunabar.com. "We negotiated this collective bargaining agreement and it was a huge process, but the same principles apply for any negotiation," Press said. "Every woman should feel empowered to ask for her worth and when you do, here are steps to take to put yourself in the best position. The only way to achieve equality is to hit it from all angles."
On March 9, Adidas said it would pay its sponsored athletes on the Women's World Cup-winning team the same performance bonus granted to their male counterparts. But Roux said LUNA's donation is the first of its kind that the USWNT Players Association has received. She hopes it's not the last.
"There are so many brands doing campaigns around equality. It's very trendy," Roux said. "The Nike commercial that aired during the Grammys was beautiful and tugged at your heartstrings. But this is way cooler. I would love if this starts a new trend in how brands activate around women athletes. I would love to see other brands in other countries step up for their national teams and support them in the same way. That would be a dream."
Trust the Process: What the Sixers have in Common with Successful Business Leaders (Philadelphia Business Journal, June 2018)
Three years ago on NBA draft day, we wrote an article about the Sixers’ strategy to win the long game. The struggling team found themselves mired in nearly a decade-long period of lousy performance. However, over the course of this near-historic losing skid, leaders of the Sixers organization remained immune to short-term pressure for quick fixes, and laid out a bold plan with long-term strategic intent. Three years later, in the midst of executing drastic transformation, the Sixers are now a winning team and a legitimate NBA-title contender.
Our research at Heidrick Consulting has documented the capabilities of winning organizations and their recipes for success. There are close comparisons that can be drawn between the 76ers and the world’s best companies that we deem “superaccelerators.” Namely, both the Sixers and superaccelerating organizations, such as Alphabet, Celgene, Comcast, and Visa, have demonstrated an exceptional ability to mobilize, execute, and transform with agility.
They Overcame the “Valley of Despair” with a Clear Purpose (Mobilize)
In a volatile and hyper-competitive environment, organizations and teams need to adapt and institute internal change. There is a robust empirical phenomenon termed the “Valley of Despair.” During organizational change, performance typically declines before it improves. When performance reaches a low point, there is a sense of fear and doubt that pervades organizations. At this point, many employees may disconnect from the change, causing the organization to fail – unless there is a clear and compelling North Star. The North Star will give the organization will to stay the course and survive the inevitable valleys of despair that accompany change initiatives. The Valley of Despair can be seen both in the history of businesses and in the 76ers’ quest to rebuild.
Three years ago, the Sixers finished with 18 regular season wins, making them the third-losingest team in the NBA. Things got worse before they got better. The next season, the Sixers won 10 games, putting them dead last in the league, and nearly setting an NBA record for futility. But in the midst of poor performance, meager crowds, and General Manager Sam Hinkie’s departure, the Sixers organization held a clear North Star, utilizing their young talent and draft picks to make them an NBA title contender. They continued to take a patient approach to the injuries of key players such as Joel Embiid, and stockpile draft picks that would produce 2018 Rookie of the Year nominee Ben Simmons. They took calculated risks, such as trading their 2014 1st round draft pick for Dario Saric, who was playing in Turkey at the time. Now the Sixers’ vision is starting to pay off. This year, the Sixers finished with the fifth best record in the NBA.
They Put the Right People in the Right Roles (Execute)
Organizations develop winning capabilities through great talent-development processes. Execution implies making difficult decisions on individuals who are not the right fit for the role and organizational culture. Such critical decision-making should be exercised for all levels of the organization – from front-line talent to upper management and executives. The Sixers invested considerable time and capital in finding the right players for the right roles. In 2017, they invested $148 million in Embiid’s new contract as their franchise center. Shortly after, they traded former 1st round pick Jahlil Okafor after a growing list of off-court issues and disputes with coaches. This season, they invested in strong perimeter shooting through JJ Redick, and bolstering their bench talent. And in the offseason, after concerns that General Manager Bryan Colangelo leaked sensitive information about his players, the 76ers have accepted Colangelo’s resignation in favor of a replacement who will have better relationships and trust with players and fans. The Sixers’ ownership has demonstrated an ability to make tough calls and remain resilient in the face of adversity.
They Drive Innovation and Model an Entrepreneurial Spirit (Transform)
Winning organizations challenge the status quo. Leaders within these organizations should encourage and drive experimentation to reinvent their businesses ahead of the competition. Transformation implies breaking with tradition and internal fiefdoms, rethinking the way things are done, and embracing innovation. This requires a culture of disruptive thinking, idea generation, experimentation, and rapid adoption.
The 76ers were named to Fast Company’s 2018 “Most Innovative Companies” list due to their breakthroughs off-the-court. The Sixers’ new, state-of-the-art Training Complex in Camden, New Jersey is unparalleled in size and scope in the NBA. The Sixers also provide their players with a premier nutrition program that surpasses that of many of their NBA competitors. They hired an executive chef, JaeHee Cho a former sous chef at Parc – a high-profile Philadelphia French restaurant – who created a restaurant-quality menu serving the nutritional needs of top athletes.
They Maintained Optionality while Executing their Strategy (Agility)
Too often, leaders and organizations become entrapped in the frame of binary decision-making. Strategic thinkers insist on surfacing multiple options at the outset and do not prematurely become locked into go/no-go decisions. Winning organizations can pivot their strategies in the event of unforeseen change.
While executing in their quest to build a championship-caliber team, the Sixers maintained salary cap flexibility and a healthy stock of draft picks. Before the start of the 2017-18 season, the Sixers were able to sign Redick for a one-year, $23 million deal. Redick was instrumental in helping the Sixers make the playoffs, with his ability to shoot from the perimeter and mentor young players. The Sixers’ current payroll structure has positioned them as a viable suitor for LeBron James’s free-agency, and also a potential acquirer of Kawhi Leonard or Paul George. Furthermore, the Sixers own six draft picks in this year’s draft, with one of those picks being the 10th overall pick from the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Sixers are modeling the disciplines of strategic leaders and winning organizations. In addition to the aforementioned characteristics, the 76ers have demonstrated many of the 13 drive factors that our research has proven to differentiate the best-performing companies from the status-quo. And although the current generation of players and management have yet to produce an NBA title, the Sixers opened Las Vegas bets with the best odds in the Eastern Conference to win the 2019 NBA Finals. Regardless of their fortune and our own fandom, the Sixers represent a paradigm from which businesses can learn.
Some of the concepts and examples in this article were adapted from “Winning the Long Game: How Strategic Leaders Shape the Future” by Steven Krupp and Paul J.H. Schoemaker (PublicAffairs, 2014) and “Accelerating Performance: How Organizations Can Mobilize, Execute, and Transform with Agility” by Colin Price and Sharon Toye (Wiley, 2017).