Soccer prez: “We’re sorry for…(checks notes) our blatant sexism.”
U.S. players Tierna Davidson, Lindsey Horan, Julie Ertz, Abby Dahlkemper, and Kelley O'Hara stand with their jerseys turned inside out during the playing of the national anthem before a SheBelieves Cup women's soccer match against Japan, Wednesday, March 11, 2020, at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.Jeffrey McWhorter / AP

The world of professional sports is plagued by sexism. And the U.S. Soccer Federation is doing its best to keep it that way.

In a legal brief filed March 5 by the federation, part of the ongoing equal pay lawsuit filed by 28 players of the women’s national team, attorneys argued the case should be dismissed because: “The U.S. women’s football team is less skilled and has fewer responsibilities than their male colleagues.”

The brief continued by saying a male soccer player on the national team “requires a higher level of skill based on speed and strength” compared to their female colleagues, and that the men’s national team faces “tougher competition” in tournaments. And we can’t forget their often used excuse: “It’s the players union who should be blamed for the pay disparity—they negotiated the current contract.”

Let’s go over some quick facts: First, the women’s national team has won four world championships, and five Olympic gold medals, the men’s team has won none. Second, women’s soccer games outperformed men’s games in terms of revenue. And finally, the men’s team players fully support the women’s team players’ fight for equal pay.

As expected, the Federation apologized Wednesday night, following the swift criticism and player protest.

The women’s national team players took to the field Wednesday with their warmup jerseys inside out for the national anthem and team photo, hiding the USSF crest on the jerseys, only showing the four gold stars—one for each World Cup title.

The WNT had a 3-1 win over Japan in an Olympic prep match.

Women’s team players released a group statement saying: “We wanted to stand together as a team and make a statement on behalf of all women and girls that the federation‘s comments are unacceptable. We love this sport and this country, and we cannot stand for this misogynistic treatment.”

Molly Levinson, spokesperson for the players said, “This ‘argument’ belongs in the Paleolithic Era.

“It sounds as if it has been made by a caveman… Everyone in the world understands that the argument that male players ‘have more responsibility’ is just plain simple sexism and illustrates the very gender discrimination that caused us to file this lawsuit, to begin with.”

So, what did USSF President Carlos Cordeiro say in his apology?

“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,” the statement said. “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.”

Obviously, well obvious to some, the apology should have been followed by the USSF announcing they were withdrawing from the case and would settle by ensuring the women’s team would get equal pay.

Instead, Cordeiro said the federation had retained a new law firm, Latham & Watkins, the firm where former USSF president Alan Rothenberg is a retired partner. Seyfarth and Shaw, a well-known union-busting law firm initially represented the federation.

WNT players filed the gender discrimination lawsuit in federal court in Los Angeles last year, and are seeking over $66 million in damages under the Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The trial is scheduled to begin May 5, and both sides have filed for summary judgment, asking U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner to rule in their favor without a trial.


Al Neal
Al Neal

Award winning journalist Al Neal is PW associate editor for labor and politics. He is also the chief photographer for People's World. He is a member of the Chicago News Guild, Society of Professional Journalists, Professional Photographers of America, National Sports Media Association, and The Ernest Brooks Foundation.