The U.S. Soccer Federation apologized Wednesday night after it made claims in court documents that women on its national team had lesser responsibilities and physical abilities than their male counterparts, an assertion that drew widespread criticism and sparked an apparent player protest.
The statement from USSF President Carlos Cordeiro came hours after the Coca-Cola Co. denounced the federation for its stance.
“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.”
Cordeiro’s statement was released during the closing minutes of the U.S. team’s 2-1 win over Japan for its third SheBelieves Cup title.
“Every negotiation we’ve had, those undertones are in there that we’re lesser,” team captain Megan Rapinoe said after the game. “Every mediation session that we had, any time we meet with them and obviously the reason we filed this lawsuit.
Rapinoe on US Soccer prez Carlos Cordeiro’s apology, released near the end of the #USWNT’s win over Japan in the #SheBelievesCup:— Sam Khan Jr. (@skhanjr) March 12, 2020
“We don’t buy it....That wasn’t for us. That was for fans, media, sponsors...every negotiation, those undertones are there, that we’re lesser.” pic.twitter.com/zsuNiF28M5
“So for him to put that out saying sorry, presuming it’s for us, we don’t buy it. That wasn’t for us at all, that was for everybody else.”
Coca-Cola, a long-term partner with the USSF as well as a global sponsor of the World Cup since 1974, had called the federation’s assertion in documents filed earlier this week “unacceptable and offensive.”
In court documents filed Monday in response to the players’ motion for a summary judgment, the USSF said the women claimed their ability level is the same as the men “by ignoring the materially higher level of speed and strength required to perform the job of an MNT player.”
“A reasonable juror could conclude that the job of MNT player requires materially different skill and more responsibility than plaintiffs’ job does, while also taking place under materially different working conditions,” USSF lawyers wrote. “The job of MNT player [competing against senior men’s national teams] requires a higher level of skill based on speed and strength than does the job of WNT player [competing against senior women’s national teams].”
Molly Levinson, spokeswoman for the players in the lawsuit, said, “This ‘argument’ belongs in the Paleolithic Era.”
“It sounds as if it has been made by a caveman,” she said in a statement. “Literally everyone in the world understands that an 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.”
Players filed the gender discrimination lawsuit in federal court in Los Angeles last year, claiming they are paid less than their counterparts on the men’s national team. The women are seeking more than $66 million in damages under the Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and a trial is scheduled for May 5.
Both sides have moved for summary judgments, asking U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner to decide in their favor without a trial.