It had to happen.
Carlos Cordeiro had to step down as head of the U.S. Soccer Federation, which he did on Thursday night with a statement posted to social media, a statement that incredibly did not include another apology to the members of the women’s national team, or girls and women around the world who were rightfully outraged by the so-called justification the federation used in court documents to explain why members of the successful USWNT don’t deserve a pay raise.
“My one and only mission has always been to do what is best for our Federation,” Cordeiro wrote on Twitter, with a statement attached.
It’s worth wondering what Cordeiro believes was in the USSF’s best interests, because feuding with and demeaning the women’s team and submitting court documents that paint women at large as having less “ability” is hardly in the best interests of the game in this country.
Women not being as strong or fast as men, as the USSF filing states, is not a great mystery, but stronger and faster are relative. Against other women from all parts of the world, the American women are stronger. They are faster. They’re so good that they were criticized for their 13-0 group stage win over Thailand in the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
Since winning the 1999 Women’s World Cup on U.S. soil, two generations of girls have grown up idolizing our national team, populating fields everywhere. The latest numbers from the National Federation of State High School associations show that 394,000 girls played high school soccer in 2018 — nearly 40,000 more than did in 2010.
The women’s game isn’t only growing on U.S. soil. According to FIFA, the 2019 Women’s World Cup had a global viewing audience of 1.12 billion, with 263 million watching the U.S.-Netherlands final that the U.S. went on to win. It was the first time the women’s tournament hit the 1 billion+ mark.
That U.S. team, those women, are what we say we want sports to be: they’re successful, they have minimal (if any) scandals, they relish being role models to kids and young people everywhere, and they help grow the game they love.
That would seem to run counter to the argument set forth in the USSF’s filing, that part of the reason that members of the men’s team deserve so much more in pay is because there’s more “responsibility” for members of that team.
Given that both the men and women are obligated to play 20 matches per year, and all of those games are 90 minutes long plus stoppage and extra time when needed, the additional responsibility isn’t on the field.
And if winning is one of the responsibilities, the men might want to start giving money back. They didn’t even qualify for the 2018 World Cup, and the best they’ve finished in the quadrennial tournament is third — in 1930.
These are the women the USSF demeaned on Cordeiro’s watch.
Cordeiro said he “did not have the opportunity to fully review” the filing that the Foundation submitted and that he takes responsibility for not doing so.
But while that filing lays out the Foundation’s argument in stark, sexist terms, those documents were not the first time U.S. Soccer made it clear it believes USWNT players are inferior. The fact that it is fighting as hard as it is and for as long as it has to increase their pay and other conditions, such as travel and accommodations, underscores that.
“We sort of felt those were the certain undercurrent feelings they have had for a long time, but to see that as the argument, a sort of blatant misogyny and sexism as the argument against us, is really disappointing,” star striker Megan Rapinoe said on ESPN on Wednesday night, after she and her teammates beat Japan 3-1 in the SheBelieves Cup. That was their third game in six days.
“I just want to say it’s all false. To every girl out there, to every boy out there who watches this team or just wants to live their dream out, you are not lesser just because you are a girl. You are not better because you’re a boy. We are all created equal and should all have equal opportunity to go out and pursue our dreams. And for us, that means playing on the soccer field, so everything that was in that deposition is not true. Don’t ever believe that.”
If the USSF is to begin to fix its relationship with the women’s team, Cordeiro had to go. MLS commissioner Don Garber said he was “shocked and angry” by the language in the filing, told Cordeiro that it was “offensive and unacceptable,” and would discuss it with the Foundation’s Board of Directors.
Add in that several major corporations that sponsor the team and foundation — Visa, Volkswagen, Coca-Cola and Deloitte among them — publicly decried the words used in the filing, it’s crystal clear why it was time for new leadership. Money talks.
How much more the women deserve going forward is up for debate (they’ve brought forth an expert who says they’re owed $66 million in back pay). But other things the men receive, like playing almost exclusively on natural grass, which is more forgiving on their bodies than artificial surfaces, and traveling via chartered planes, common for elite-level athletes even at the college level, should not be.
Cordeiro said he always wanted to do what was best for the U.S. Soccer Federation. By stepping aside on Thursday night, he did.
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