U.S. women wear jerseys inside out in protest amid equal pay lawsuit
FRISCO, Texas -- Following a 3-1 win over Japan on Wednesday to secure the SheBelieves Cup, U.S. women's national team co-captain Megan Rapinoe said that the U.S. Soccer Federation might have done irreparable damage to its relationship with the players after a recent court filing in response to the players' gender-discrimination lawsuit.
Rapinoe -- who, like the rest of the team, took the pitch in pregame warmups with shirts inside out, hiding the U.S. Soccer crest -- also cast skepticism on an apology issued by US Soccer Federation president Carlos Cordeiro.
"We just wanted to show that that kind of rhetoric is completely unacceptable," said Rapinoe, who scored and had an assist in the USWNT's victory on Wednesday. "I know that we're in a contentious fight but that crossed the line completely."
On Monday, U.S. Soccer Federation filed a motion in the USWNT members' wage-discrimination lawsuit making repeated assertions that the men's and women's national team do not perform equal work and thus, the women's players do not qualify for equal pay under the law.
Among the claims made by U.S. Soccer in Monday's motion were that the women's players did not perform jobs requiring "equal skill, effort and responsibility under similar working conditions," in part because of the physical attributes and ability required to play at the senior men's level, that the men's worldwide competition pool is deeper and that the men's team received more viewership.
"You wanna talk about hostility? Every negotiation that we have, those undertones are there, that we're lesser," Rapinoe said. "Every mediation session that we had, any time we meet with them and obviously, the reason that we filed this lawsuit."
Minutes before Wednesday's victory concluded, Cordeiro issued an apology "for the offense and pain caused by the language in this week's court filing, which did not reflect the values of our Federation or our tremendous admiration for our Women's National Team."
Cordeiro announced changes in the statement, including the hiring of the firm Latham & Watkins to join and guide the federation's legal strategy moving forward.
"That wasn't for us," Rapinoe said of Cordeiro's apology. "That's for fans, that's for the media, that's for sponsors. That all sounded pretty similar to what we had heard before. ... That all sounded pretty similar to what we had heard before. For him to put that out saying 'Sorry,' presumably to us, we don't buy it."
Unity. 4 stars only. Who's with us? pic.twitter.com/AYv2YlcSl7— USWNT Players (@USWNTPlayers) March 12, 2020
Asked if the language in Monday's court filing caused irreparable damage to the relationship between the federation and the players, Rapinoe said "yeah, to a certain extent."
"Is that truly the way that they feel about half of the population, that they're supposed to be stewarding into the game of soccer?" she said. "I think that that says a lot about how they feel about us. Like I said, sometimes it's undertones and undercurrents and sometimes it's blatantly what we've experienced before, which is why we filed the gender discrimination lawsuit. But for them to go that low and take it there in this lawsuit is just incredibly disappointing, not only for us, but I think moreso what it says to every other person in the country, every kid growing up, not just to the girls but the boys as well. You're not better just because you're a boy and you're not lesser just because you're a girl."
USWNT co-captain Carli Lloyd struck a similar tone and took exception to the use of the word "skill" in Monday's court filing.
"It's interesting because I train with the U-18 boys team at home and I said that in my deposition: I'm more skillful than all of those boys there, put together," Lloyd said. "But they're bigger and they're stronger and they're faster. And that's just the way that they are born. As they get older, we just can't compete with that, that's science. But from a skill [standpoint], I'm better than every single one of those boys...So you put more speed and more strength and all that on me, then there's no doubt that I'd be able to fully, fully compete."
Regarding turning their shirts inside out, Lloyd said it was a way to send a message without having to say too much.
"We just decided today as a group, and everybody was on board with it," she said. "It was a powerful message without really having to send a message. I'm really proud of this group, because this is not an easy thing. We don't want to be in this position, but we're here and it's just gotta be better."
USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski said he knew the team was going to do something but didn't know precisely what it would be and didn't pry, but knew they would conduct themselves professionally and be ready to play.
"I was aware something was going to happen but I didn't want to ask any questions and didn't seek any further answers because I admire them for everything that they do and all the fights that they have," Andonovski said. "What makes them special is when the first whistle is blown, they're going to be 100 percent ready."