Oh no, U.S. Soccer. You don’t get off that easily.
U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro’s apology to the U.S. women’s team for its sexist and demeaning treatment doesn’t cut it. Not when U.S. Soccer was all in for the misogyny, only “realizing” it was wrong after being called out by sponsors.
“I have made it clear to our legal team that even as we debate facts and figures in the course of this case, we must do so with the utmost respect not only for our Women's National Team players but for all female athletes around the world,” Cordeiro said Wednesday night.
Good. But where was this months ago?
Megan Rapinoe celebrates her first-half goal with teammates against Japan on Wednesday night. (Photo: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)
As enraging as it was to see U.S. Soccer dismiss its four-time World Cup champions as inferior to male players and belittle their accomplishments in a court filing Monday, it also was not new. The federation made it clear long ago that that was going to be its argument, condescension the recurring theme in its depositions of players.
Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan were asked how they’d fare against the German men’s team, the insinuation being that the U.S. women were good “for a bunch of girls.” Kelley O’Hara was asked about discrepancies in revenue and TV ratings between the men’s and women’s World Cups, as if the historical lack of support for and promotion of the women’s game hasn’t been a major factor in that.
The sexism was so blatant, the intent to humiliate so clear, that the U.S. Women’s National Team Players Association last month licensed T-shirts and hoodies with “Shall we fight it out?” Lloyd’s retort when U.S. Soccer’s attorney badgered her about playing a men’s team.
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Cordeiro and the other powers-that-be at U.S. Soccer knew full well that their lawyers were doing this. And they didn’t put a stop to it.
“What I don’t get is how you ever get to this position where you’re OK with letting your legal team run all these depositions in that manner, and making that the central tentpole of your argument,” Julie Foudy, a member of the 1999 World Cup champions and now an analyst with ESPN, said after Cordeiro’s apology was read during the broadcast of Wednesday night’s game.
“Someone had to be the adult in the room and say, `What are we doing?’ ”
But they didn’t. Sued by the U.S. women for gender discrimination, U.S. Soccer went out and hired one of the top law firms for workplace claims – The Weinstein Co. hired Seyfarth Shaw when it was sued for sexual harassment – and stood by as the attorneys tore the federation’s best team down.
Yes, it’s an attorney’s job to try and undercut the other side’s arguments. But there was a nastiness to U.S. Soccer’s strategy that was impossible to overlook.
“We have sort of felt that those are some of the undercurrent feelings that they’ve had for a long time,” Megan Rapinoe said on ESPN after the U.S. women beat Japan 3-1, running their unbeaten streak to 31 games.
“But to see that as the argument, blatant misogyny and sexism as the argument against us, is really disappointing.”
Which is why Cordeiro’s apology rings so hollow.
Despite widespread criticism of its misogynistic defense, U.S. Soccer was defiantly uncontrite this week. And that’s probably how it would have remained had sponsors not weighed in.
Coca-Cola called U.S. Soccer’s position “unacceptable and offensive.” Deloitte said it was “deeply offended.” Budweiser and Visa also criticized the federation. The statements were stunning given sponsors typically are loath to make any public criticism even when it’s a five-alarm dumpster fire.
Lo and behold, within hours Cordeiro had issued his apology and announced new lawyers.
“That statement is not going to make the players think that all the sudden the federation has changed their mind,” Foudy said. “I’m sorry. It doesn’t work that way.”
Whether it’s the inequity in pay and treatment that started all this or the cavalier manner with which the federation and its attorneys have disparaged the U.S. women, sexism is baked into the culture at U.S. Soccer. An apology, and a forced one at that, isn’t enough to make it right.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.
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