Fine, Nix: LFG (2021) | Jessica McDonald
Jessica McDonald in LFG (2021) | trailer screengrab

Tribeca 2021: ‘LFG’ Shows the Struggle and Sacrifice in Fight for Equal Pay

Sean Fine and Andrea Nix’s new documentary, LFG, focuses on the women’s national soccer team’s court battle to get paid what they’re worth.

Andrea Nix Fine, Sean Fine
CNN Films
24 June 2021 (Tribeca)

LFG ends in almost exactly the same way it began, with footage of the various members of the US Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) putting themselves through the arduous work of training. Unfortunately, the film ends with these athletes in the same place as they were at the beginning: fighting the US Soccer Federation (USSF) for equal pay. 

It’s no spoiler to reveal the end of this well-paced, sturdy, and often intimate documentary from filmmakers Andrea Nix Fine and Sean Fine. The ongoing court battle to close the egregious pay gap that still exists between the men’s and women’s national soccer squads has been international news since the first lawsuit was filed on 1 May 2019. The discussion about this unequal treatment was amplified loudly by the success that the USWNT had on the pitch since that filing: a World Cup championship, two SheBelieves Cup wins, and qualification for the upcoming Olympic Games. 

Yet even as the women’s team blew up on the national stage, making celebrities of Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd, Christen Press, and Becky Sauerbrunn, they’ve only made incremental progress in their legal fight. And that has only come recently with the USSF finally agreeing to give the women benefits equal to their less-successful male counterparts.

The Fines were able to squeeze a mention of that small victory in at the end of LFG, but it doesn’t have the triumphal feeling it should. After everything that preceded it, anything short of total success comes across as a disappointment. It’s the double-edged sword of making a documentary like this one. The filmmakers and the members of the USWNT in LFG make the case for equal pay and treatment so effectively that even earning the right to get charter flights and better hotel accommodations feels like a half-measure. 

Because if the Fines did nothing else, they proved just how hard the team and their legal support worked on this case, even as many of the players were still playing with their respective professional squads. The women were in constant motion over the last 18 months, participating in grueling conference calls, depositions, and media appearances. The mental and emotional toll of fending off online trolls and ugly comments from the former president only added to the load on their collective backs. The title of this film—a family-friendly version of the team’s game time rallying cry “Let’s fucking go”—echoes throughout as these women push each other and hold each other up as they wade into a morass of legal maneuvering and bullshit. 

LFG is really a courtroom drama that doesn’t take place in an actual courtroom. Their fight is a game of inches with each motion filed and each long hour of mediation endured. They only ever saw the court of public opinion, which was very much in their favor. When it was revealed that the USSF’s legal team’s defense was, essentially, women are biologically inferior to men and therefore don’t deserve the same amount of money, the outcry was loud enough to force the resignation of the federation’s then-president. 

Through it all, the women continued to play, knowing that each victory they notched on the pitch would only help strengthen their case. Even if they weren’t getting paid what they so richly deserve. They’ve already sacrificed so much and worked too hard to give up now. 

That mentality becomes the emotional core of LFG. While the filmmakers keep their cameras trained on the public face of the USWNT, they balance out Rapinoe’s trips to the ESPY Awards and the Glamour magazine photoshoots with the story of her teammate Jessica McDonald. She put her all into her career, even if it meant packing boxes at Amazon during the offseason or halting training with the national squad so she could change her toddler son’s diaper. 

Nearly everyone on screen in LFG talks about the long-term impact of the battle for equal pay and the message that it sends to people across the globe. But watching McDonald doing push ups in her living room with her son laying across her back speaks that same message the loudest without her ever saying it outright. 

RATING 7 / 10