U.S. Women: U.S. Soccer Statement concerning Debbie Keller's arbitration action (Feb. 26)

The following is a statement from U.S. Soccer: "Today, the law firm of Williams & Connolly filed an action on behalf of ,Debbie Keller, a member of U.S. Soccer's Women's National Team player pool, challenging U.S. Soccer's decision to invite other players into its residency training program. Ms. Keller's attorneys have alleged that her absence from this program is the result of discrimination and retaliation. Nothing could be further from the truth. U.S. Soccer Proudly Supports Women's Soccer "U.S. Soccer is proud of its accomplishments and continuing efforts to promote women's soccer. U.S. Soccer is committed to women's soccer and will not tolerate discrimination of any kind. U.S. Soccer is a leader in women's sport. The Federation's women's programs are amongst the most extensive in the world and its Women's National Team is the highest paid women's national soccer team in the world. U.S. Soccer successfully lobbied to make women's soccer an Olympic and Pan-American event and is currently working to make the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup, to be held in the United States this summer, a breakthrough event for women's sport. "U.S. Soccer acted properly in selecting the players for the residency program. It considered only legally permissible factors and based its decision on merit. It did not discriminate against Ms. Keller; it simply chose other players. Similarly, U.S. Soccer did not retaliate against Ms. Keller in any way. U.S. Soccer is not a party to her lawsuit against the University of North Carolina and remains neutral with respect to that action. "At the time U.S. Soccer extended the invitations to the residency program, its coaches made the considered determination that while Debbie Keller is one of many gifted players who have contributed to the National Team in the past and may again in the future, she should not be one of the players initially called into camp. "U.S. Soccer's coaches are continually re-evaluating the players and team and that is why Ms. Keller has been invited to the residency program in early March. Ms. Keller's invitation, like the other players that have been invited into camp since January, is purely the result of the coaches continuing efforts to ensure that the Federation fields the best possible team this year and for years to come. Ms. Keller's invitation is based upon her merits as a player -- not any litigation tactic. "U.S. Soccer respects the rights of its athletes. U.S. Soccer, however, will contest the groundless accusations put forward by Ms. Keller's lawyers."
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