Skill Has No Gender: A look at the USWNT’s court case against the USSF

Last night the US Women’s National Team (USWNT) won the 2020 SheBelieves Cup. This feat is impressive, but it was overshadowed by the US Soccer Federation (USSF) and comments they have made regarding their litigation with the USWNT over equal pay/equal rights.

The USWNT wore their warmup shirts inside out to protest the USSF’s stance that the Women soccer players have less skill than Men soccer players. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports.

Quotes from legal filings surfaced earlier this week, and in it, the USSF makes the claim that these women are lesser than men when it comes to playing soccer:

“The job of a Men’s National Team player requires a higher level of skill based on speed and strength than dies the job of a Women’s National Team Player.”

“The job of a Men’s National Team player carries more responsibility withing U.S. Soccer than the job of a Women’s National Team player.”

Excerpts from USSF Leagal Filings

These are outrageous and downright degrading statements. It soul-crushing that anyone would even try to draw this conclusion, but it’s what the USSF is defending.

This is obviously unsettling and feels like blatant discrimination, but how did this even get to this point?

USWNT Files Federal Gender Discrimination Lawsuit against USSF (March 8, 2019)

Last year 28 US Women’s National Team players filed a discrimination lawsuit against their own federation. The USWNT was getting ready for the 2019 World Cup, and they felt they deserved to be paid on the same level as their male counterparts; not only in the salary they would get from the Federation but also in the amount of money they’d get for progressing far and possibly winning major tournaments. The basis for this lawsuit is that the USWNT feels that the USSF has violated the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The Court Case is set to take place on May 5, 2020.

As there was a long gap and several competitions (including the World Cup) between the initial discrimination lawsuit, the two sides met to try to mediate a resolution before the court case.

Mediation Falls through (August 14, 2019)

After the USWNT won the World Cup, they came to the negotiating table with the USSF. They felt they had proven their case as they won all seven matches in the tournament. The USA had only been scored on three times in the World Cup, sported a goal difference of plus 23 and played with an innate swagger that the best sports teams in the world have when they dominate their sport. This did not seem to faze the US Soccer Federation one bit.

Unfortunately, the USSF held firm, and both sides went their separate ways as negotiations broke down, and awaited the trial. To prepare for the trial, there were many depositions where the USSF asked questions of USWNT players. These depositions were what the USSF based their legal findings that came to light this past week.

Before these legal findings were made public, USSF president Carlos Cordeiro wrote an open letter about the USWNT and the USSF’s stance ahead of the lawsuit.

An open letter from USSF President Carlos Cordeiro (March 8, 2020)

Fast forward to this week, but before the damning legal findings came out. On Sunday, USSF President Carlos Cordeiro had this to say in an open letter about the USWNT and the case brought against the USSF:

The full letter can be found here

“…Last month, we offered the WNT Players Association multiple contract options, which we strongly believe address the team’s goals as they have been presented to us by the players and their representatives. In particular, we have offered to provide identical compensation to our women’s and men’s players for all matches controlled by U.S. Soccer.

Since extending this offer, we have made multiple attempts to meet with the WNT to discuss these new options. So far, they have repeatedly declined our invitation to meet on the premise that our proposal does not include U.S. Soccer agreeing to make up the difference in future prize money awarded by FIFA for the Men’s and Women’s World Cups, a number that would be more than $34 million today. In addition, they are seeking more than $66 million dollars, which is the difference in prize money between the last two FIFA Men’s and Women’s World Cups…”

Carlos Cordeiro, USSF President.

This was put out on international women’s day, and before the USWNT took on Spain in the second of three matches in the SheBeleives Cup. It seems the USSF does not have great timing when disclosing sensitive information. While the statement did little to bridge the gap between the two sides, it did shed some more light on the problems with the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). These issues aren’t just US Soccer issues when it comes to paying the Women, but that does not mean that the US Soccer Federation has treated their Women’s National Team equally, which is the main problem here!

Back to the main problem, Discriminatory USSF Filings (March 10, 2020)

As mentioned earlier, players from the USWNT were deposed as part of the preparation for the hearing that is set for May 5, 2020. Multiple players were the subjects of these depositions. These occurred back in February 2020 and from them, we see the USSF filings that came to light this past Tuesday. This is where we see the main problem lies; the Federation does not see that Women and Men have the same skill level. Here are the awful quotes again:

“The job of a Men’s National Team player requires a higher level of skill based on speed and strength than dies the job of a Women’s National Team Player.”

“The job of a Men’s National Team player carries more responsibility withing U.S. Soccer than the job of a Women’s National Team player.”

Excerpts from USSF Leagal Filings

These filings and these quotes in particular circulated and many were, rightly, outraged at the USSF. Even US Soccer sponsor Coca-Cola put out a statement condemning the filings.

This news came on the eve of the USWNT playing for the SheBelieves Cup, but it took more than a day to warrant a response from the USSF president.

Cordeiro apologizes for the Filings statements (March 11, 2020)

During the second half of the USWNT decisive match against Japan, where they eventually won the SheBeleives Cup, a statement came out from the USSF about their legal filings. The ESPN broadcast was given the message from USSF President Carlos Cordeiro, and they read it on air. Cordeiro apologized for the language used in the USSF court filings. Here’s his full apology that was read on air:

“On behalf of U.S. Soccer, I sincerely apologize for the offense and pain caused by language in this week’s court filing, which did not reflect the values of our Federation or our tremendous admiration of our Women’s National Team. Our WNT players are incredibly talented and work tirelessly, as they have demonstrated time and again from their Olympic Gold medals to their World Cup titles.

Even as we continue to defend the Federation in court, we are making immediate changes. I have asked the firm of Latham & Watkins to join and guide our legal strategy going forward. I have made it clear to our legal team that even as we debate facts and figures in the course of this case, we must do so with the utmost respect not only for our Women’s National Team players but for all female athletes around the world. As we do, we will continue to work to resolve this suit in the best interest of everyone involved.”

Carlos Cordeiro, USSF President.

The main issue with the USSF filings is that they say that the biological makeup of men and women makes them inequal; therefore, pay should not be equal. This struck a chord with so many people right when it was made public, but it took the USSF president over 24 hours to respond. In his response, Cordeiro apologized in one paragraph and then pushed on how the lawsuit is going to continue as planned to benefit everyone involved. The hypocrisy is astounding; there can be no benefit for all involved if one side of this lawsuit are openly discriminated against.

Those who function from a discriminatory base should not be included in his statement about benefiting, and they were by adding the in the second paragraph of his apology. The blindness to the ingrained discrimination inside of federation, and to some extent the country as a whole, is the reason Cordeiro and the USSF do not see the true issue here. We’ll see if they are able to continue to be so thick through the court case in May.

The Impending Court Case (Set for May 5, 2020)

Right now, we should be talking about a dominant USWNT. After failing to win the SheBeleives tournament last year, this hugely successful team wanted to make a statement and win the tournament this time around. They won all three matches, dispatching England, Spain and Japan, and lifted the trophy.

However, the treatment of this team’s shouts for equality has taken the spotlight away from the athletes on the field, and their accomplishments, and puts it on a federation that sees Women as lesser than men. To be quiet honest, this US Team should have nothing to prove, they have been the best national team in the world for the better part of the last decade. They have been at the pinnacle of their sport, yet they still feel they have to prove they belong as equal to their men counterparts who have not been as successful. This is outrageous, and to then discriminate against them based on their gender shows how out of touch the federation is!

Skill has no gender. Period. This issue and stance the USSF has taken says that since Women are biologically different than Men, that they do not deserve to be paid the same, and given the same reward in terms of winnings from FIFA. That is utterly stupid, misogynistic and discriminatory. The USSF needs to take a long look at themselves now before this court case to see how they really want to go about this issue.

The court case is set for May 5, 2020. Let’s hope that no matter the outcome, that basic human decency is shown. Who knows if the USWNT will win their case for equality, but hopefully, this will allow the USSF to see the gender bias that has been ingrained into their very being. This kind of discrimination cannot happen; the process to purge that from the federation will take work and time, but now is the time for it to come!

The USWNT is the best national team in the world, they deserve to strive for equality, and also deserve to be valued by their federation in word (praise) and action (investment). The investment into the Women’s team compared to the Men’s team is significantly lower, and that is the main problem! Imagine what this team could do if they got the same kind of investment as the men’s team does?

I long for the days where we only talk about this team’s amazing play on the field that makes this game so beautiful, without having to mention the USSF and their offensive gender biases against the USWNT.

Let’s leave this deep dive into a true sea of discrimination and misogyny with some great words from Megan Rapinoe responding to all of this craziness after just winning the SheBeleives Cup yesterday evening.

Highlights from the USA dominance in the 2020 She Believes Cup

Just in case you’re actually interested in the soccer, and dominance of the USWNT in this 2020 SheBeilives Cup, take a look here:

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Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

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