The night before the US women’s national team was due to take on Spain in the SheBelieves Cup - also, coincidentally, the night before International Women’s Day - US Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro sent an open letter to the American soccer community outlining the issues the federation takes with the WNT’s equal pay lawsuit.
A WNT representative sent back a very strongly-worded statement, but at this point in the day, it was too late to get direct comment from the players themselves. Most of the media present after the United States’ 1-0 win over Spain made up for this, asking nearly every player to come through the mixed zone for their thoughts on both the content and the timing of Cordeiro’s letter. Feelings seemed to range from disappointment to mild disregard.
“We’re really focused hard on this tournament,” said Crystal Dunn, “And the group comes together and we discuss, obviously, these matters. So, you know, there really hasn’t been too much chatter and, just, you take it day by day.”
Christen Press was in agreement that the tournament took precedence. “Our team does an amazing job staying focused on what we do on the field,” she said. “We will always be a team that does a lot more than play football. We always have. But we’re professionals and we had an important game. We have a new coach and we’re on a winning streak and we have to protect that and fight for that and that’s entirely where our focus is.”
Becky Sauerbrunn was more open about her disappointment in the manner in which Cordeiro released the letter. “I feel it’s a little ill-timed,” she said. “Obviously this is a major tournament for us. It’s one of our biggest domestic tournaments that we have every year We’d like to be focusing on soccer stuff and unfortunately, we didn’t get to focus on soccer stuff as much as we’d like.”
“Luckily, we’ve got great lawyers,” she added, “And our lawyers have got great spokespeople, and they kind of had it planned and wanted the response to be strong and the facts to be out there to be truthful and so, they [US Soccer] don’t get to kind of shape the narrative.”
Megan Rapinoe was the most forceful in her response. “The timing of it on the eve of not only a game, but in this tournament and on the eve of International Women’s Day - I guess if that’s how you want to celebrate International Women’s Day and show support for not only your players but potentially future players and girls all over the place, that’s one way to do it. Once again, it’s disappointing to see that stance from the federation, but personally from Carlos, it shows the distance between us on some issues and as our statement said, not all of it was true. So that was disappointing for sure.”
Rapinoe said that Cordeiro’s association of the WNT’s $66 million claim for damages with the difference in prize money between the last two men’s and women’s World Cups was one of the falsehoods that the players’ statement was meant to address. But on the other hand, she didn’t seem particularly fazed that the letter was sent in the first place.
“That’s kind of been the sentiment from Carlos all along, so I don’t know if it was really surprising,” she said. “But very disappointing for me personally and I think a lot of players on the team considering the tournament we’re in.... You’re pulling people out of their Saturday. Now we gotta think about this and expend energy before a really big game, and we’re trying to prepare for the Olympics and win this tournament and be as good as we can be, and now we gotta put effort towards this and pull the media team and the lawyers and everybody out on a Saturday. Not the nicest move. I’m not sure it really achieved what it was intended to.”
Rapinoe said she hadn’t spoken to Cordeiro yet about the open letter, though he was on hand at the game in order to help honor Crystal Dunn for her 100th cap in a ceremony that took place before kickoff. “We’re probably not on real chatty terms right now,” Rapinoe quipped.
What does Rapinoe actually want to see from Cordeiro and USSF in order to come to a resolution? “An actual offer for equal pay and some considerable damages as well,” she said. “I don’t think we’re anywhere close to that right now though.”