Male soccer players are more skilled than women. Their game is harder than the one played by their female counterparts. No, statements like these aren’t from decades ago.
They were made in 2020.
It wasn’t a random Twitter troll that made those comments either. They came from the United States Soccer Federation and its legal team in documents submitted to a Los Angeles court as it tries to fight the United States women’s national soccer team over equal pay.
"We've sort of felt that those are some of the undercurrent feelings that they've had for a long time,” star player Megan Rapinoe said after a game. “But to see that as the argument, as blatant misogyny and sexism as the argument against us, is really disappointing.”
The USWNT is preparing for a May 5 court date with its employers, trying to receive back pay and equal pay to the United States men’s national team moving forward. Just weeks before that meeting, members of the USWNT continued to represent the nation in the annual She Believes Cup.
As the members of the She Believes Cup roster took the field ahead of the USWNT’s final game, each athlete wore their warm-up jersey inside out, purposefully hiding the crest of the nation they play for. It was a monstrous statement to a federation that has continuously tried to disparage the achievement of its women’s team. USWNT forward Christen Press addressed the decision to wear the jerseys inside out on Instagram, saying “Yesterday, we stood together as a team to make a statement on behalf of all women and girls that the federation’s comments are unacceptable.”
The USWNT wore its jerseys inside out during warm-ups Wednesday night to make a statement against the U.S. Soccer Federation. pic.twitter.com/2p8jSxIpH9— espnW (@espnW) March 12, 2020
Nearly 90 minutes later, as the USWNT was approaching its third She Believes Cup trophy, former U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro released a statement apologizing for the language used by the federation’s legal team against the USWNT. But, his last grasp at trying to maintain U.S. Soccer’s reputation quickly slipped through his hands: Cordeiro stepped down from his position less than 24 hours after the statement.
"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," Cordeiro said in the statement.
It has been an incredible privilege to serve as the President of U.S. Soccer. My one and only mission has always been to do what is best for our Federation. After discussions with the Board of Directors, I have decided to step down, effective immediately. My full statement: pic.twitter.com/4B7siuIqcL— Carlos Cordeiro (@CACSoccer) March 13, 2020
The USWNT shouldn't, and seemingly didn’t, accept that apology. If the wording used in the court filings didn’t “reflect the values” of U.S. Soccer, then the federation shouldn’t have allowed it to get to that point.
Throughout the court filings, the USSF's legal team took unprecedented shots at the USWNT, trying to diminish the athletes' accomplishments solely due to their gender, even going as far as citing the environment the two teams play in as a reason to have a difference in pay. The court filings said that the female players don't compete at the same level and aren’t as physically tested as the men’s team.
The recent filings didn’t suddenly create this conversation between employer and employee. The USWNT has been voicing its grievances with the USSF for years. For a period of time, U.S. Soccer silenced the team’s demand for equal pay by saying that it couldn’t be done because the USWNT wasn’t bringing in the money that the men’s national team was, according to a CNBC article.
But that’s not the case anymore.
According to an article from Yahoo Finance, from 2016-18, the USWNT generated more revenue than the men’s team, and that doesn’t even include the money earned during the 2019 Women’s World Cup. In 2016-18, the women’s team brought in $50.8 million in revenue compared to the men’s earnings of $49.9 million.
An article from Deadspin last July attempted to include what current USMNT team members thought of their female counterparts’ fight for equal pay. At the time, the entire roster either didn’t respond or offered no comment. Since then, the team released a statement in early 2020, offering support for the USWNT.
Following the court filings going public, former members of the USMNT have been quick to back the USWNT, and current head coach of the USMNT Gregg Berhalter also voiced his support for the women’s team.
DaMarcus Beasley, Stuart Holden and Taylor Twellman all took to social media, calling out the USSF for what it allowed its legal team to say about the USWNT. Beasley and Holden both have daughters, too, and pointed out how they didn’t want their daughters to grow up and believe what the USSF said was OK.
“I am a huge fan of the USWNT and have an immense amount of respect for the skill and determination these women have shown to reach the top of our sport,” Holden said in an Instagram post. “They are world champions on and off the field, and I refute the notion they are less skilled than their male counterparts … I want our daughter Kennady to know she can and WILL grow up in a world that values her equally and respectfully.”
Cordeiro’s resignation isn’t enough, and it shouldn’t be. The disparity between the USWNT and USMNT is rooted deep within U.S. Soccer. Changes need to be made, and this court case needs to go on as planned. The USWNT shouldn’t settle with the USSF outside the walls of a Los Angeles courtroom. Rapinoe even said she doesn’t think this team is afraid to go to trial.
It’s been too long that the USWNT has had to endure gender discrimination at the hands of U.S. Soccer, all while continuing to win trophies and awards for the federation.
Boy or girl, male or female, gender doesn’t make someone inherently better, and the USWNT is proving that.
Contact Catie Harper at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more soccer coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.