U.S. Soccer chief legal officer Lydia Wahlke resigns after review of misogynistic equal pay filing

U.S. Soccer chief legal officer Lydia Wahlke attends a meeting of the organization's board of directors Friday, Dec. 6, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

U.S. Soccer Federation chief legal officer Lydia Wahlke resigned Thursday in the aftermath of the organization’s misogynistic legal filing in the equal pay lawsuit with the U.S. women’s national team.

The federation argued in March that the women have less “ability” than the men’s team players because they are women. It argued they should therefore be paid less than the men. The stance was quickly condemned by fans and sponsors alike and Wahlke was put on administrative leave. President Carlos Cordeiro resigned in the aftermath.

U.S. Soccer chief legal officer resigns

Grant Wahl reported that Wahlke resigned her position after an outside law firm reviewed the legal strategy. Wahlke “deserved at least some blame for what happened,” per Wahl’s reporting, and no other U.S. Soccer board members are expected to lose their positions.

Wahlke, who was placed on leave during the review, will provide consulting services through Sept. 15, per Wahl.

“We would like to thank Lydia for all her hard work and dedication during her time with U.S. Soccer,” the federation said in a statement to Wahl.

She served as the federation’s general counsel for about three years after working as the general counsel to the Chicago Cubs and working as an associate at a law firm.

New protocols issued for U.S. Soccer filings

Cordeiro called the argument “unacceptable and inexcusable” in a statement before his resignation, and said he had not properly reviewed it before it was filed.

New U.S. Soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone, a former USWNT player, called the argument “offensive.” A member of the board’s special litigation committee, Parlow Cone said she had not seen the language that resulted in criticism before it was released publicly. She said in March the organization would do a “comprehensive review of our internal process” to see what happened.

As part of the review, the federation said in a statement it will now require all legal filings to be shared with the president, board members and other federation members for full review before filing.

The law firm that filed the argument asked to withdraw from the case in April, and it was granted. Lawyers for Lathan & Watkins officially took the lead on the case in the days after the filing went public.

Lawsuit trial date pushed back

U.S. Soccer withdrew that argument from the record. It was still given a summary judgment in its favor when Judge R. Gary Klausner ruled this month claims of unequal pay were insufficient to warrant a trial.

Other portions of the lawsuit are able to move forward. The USWNT players, led by Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd, have filed to appeal the decision and asked that the trial be pushed back due to the COVID-19 crisis.

It was originally scheduled for May and then pushed back to June. It has now been rescheduled for Sept. 15 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. A pre-trial is Aug. 31.

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