U.S. Soccer calls players unions' bluff

“We support the U.S. women!” cries the U.S. National Soccer Team Players Association -- which, despite its name, only supports able-bodied men who play on full-sized turf or grass fields.

“OK,” says the U.S. Soccer Federation. “Prove it.”

Forget the self-serving amicus brief that recaps the 1990s, far before the scope of the players’ lawsuit and more relevant to Cindy Parlow Cone the player than Cindy Parlow Cone the federation president, while griping that the district court’s comparison of MNT to WNT pay “overlooked the growth of U.S. Soccer in the interim” while studiously avoiding mention of FIFA’s wildly unequal prize money. It also cites a story on comparative TV ratings that specifies “English-language,” forgetting the rather substantial Spanish-speaking audience that is just now starting to pay more attention to the women’s game but isn’t there yet. (See Paul Kennedy’s Spanish-language viewerships drive huge gap between recent U.S. national team audiences.)

U.S. Soccer’s proclamation that it is offering the same deal to men and women can be taken with a grain of skepticism. Equaling pay for friendlies is simple enough. But how do you compare a win in the SheBelieves Cup before an adoring crowd with a win in World Cup qualifying before a crowd of hostile Hondurans? How do you account for the Olympics, in which any winner’s bonus is basically up to how much a federation can afford? (USA Wrestling is especially generous, but they’re paying individuals, not a team.)

But the big issue, of course, is how to account for World Cup bonuses when FIFA is planning to shell out, per ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle, $440 million for the men in 2022 and $60 million for the women in 2023 -- and that’s an improvement. It doesn’t take a lot of accounting to figure out that the lionesses’ share of the $67 million the U.S. women argue they’re lacking is attributed to World Cup bonuses.

So the message from the federation to the MNT is simple. Put your money where your brief is.

We’ve been through the background of the pay dispute so many times. The “equal pay” deals in Australia and Norway give equal percentages of World Cup bonuses, something the women would surely never accept. The women are asking for more money than U.S. Soccer projects to have in reserve in coming years, though it wasn’t quite as bad as initially projected before the stock market rallied and the federation found itself going without expenses such as “playing actual soccer games.” The legal case is very difficult to win. Etc. Etc.

While all of these facts are somewhat persuasive in the court of law, U.S. Soccer has always been in rough shape in the court of public opinion. At least, publicly -- the people who see the issues in the case sometimes keep a low profile.

The federation’s latest public gambit might at least prompt a handful of people to take a closer look at what’s going on here. In particular, the U.S. men will have some tough questions to answer if they’re not interested in sitting down with the women and the federation to figure out how to address the prize money issue.

Which leads to this comment from women’s association executive director Becca Roux to the media: “We are interested in negotiating in good faith to get a fair deal for our players and will not let them use our fight for equality to create a divide between the women and men.”

“Create a divide?” Really? The constant bashing of the men’s national team from all quarters isn’t “creating a divide” but asking the men and women to negotiate together is?

Granted, a lot of the “divide” has been exacerbated by lawyers, reported and assorted hangers-on whose interests are not necessarily the interests of soccer, men’s or women’s. Nor do they take much time to understand soccer. Tell an advocate that the core women’s players earn a base salary of $100,000 a year, and they’ll ask how much the men make. Then they’re befuddled when you tell them the answer is $0 in U.S. Soccer salary and you try to explain the different pay structures along with all the things mentioned above.

To wit: A 50-page amicus brief from a team of lawyers and advocacy groups -- “the National Women’s Law Center, Women’s Sports Foundation and 63 additional organizations” -- only mentions the word “soccer” eight times, mostly in reference to the federation or the “women’s soccer team.” While the men’s amicus brief at least cites a bunch of soccer journalists’ pieces, the brief from the non-soccer entities hardly notes the existence of the sport. It’s as if the organizations and their battalion of lawyers simply copied a template and replaced “accounting firm” or “software company” with “soccer team.”

And that ignorance undercuts their arguments, such as the head-scratching point that the WNT might not have needed salaries if the federation paid bonus money equal to the MNT’s, neglecting to mention that the bonuses are only available to those who make the big-tournament rosters and that the women themselves opted for stability rather than bet their non-NWSL incomes on a World Cup game.

They’re certainly not alone in their attempts to use the women’s soccer players as political pawns. To much fanfare, several lawmakers in both houses of Congress introduced legislation threatening to withhold aid it’s not really giving in the first place if USSF didn’t offer undefined “equal pay.” Surprise, surprise -- those bills haven’t taken a single step beyond the press releases. The bill in the old Schoolhouse Rock cartoons wouldn’t even be out on the Capitol Steps -- it would be sitting in Joe Manchin’s filing cabinet.

If we’re talking about labor law, let’s put all this in perspective.

Earlier this month, I was the substitute teacher in a third-grade class on the day they learned about the true meaning of Labor Day. They saw a video on horrors of the past -- 12-hour workdays, seven-day workweeks, no job security whatsoever -- and gasped at what their great-grandparents had gone through. The workers fought for change themselves, often suffering physical violence among other intimidation tactics.

In this case, we’re talking about what the New York Times' Andrew Das (and I) believe to be, upon all we’ve found, the highest-compensated national teams in global soccer.

Frankly, that should probably change. These deals are vestiges of a time in which players had scant prospects for income, and they’ve been ratcheted upward as the unions argue that U.S. Soccer owes them more because the federation has grown. At some point, we may need to have the argument of why American soccer teams still need start-up pay or whether that money is best redirected toward other teams (beach, futsal, Paralympic disciplines), coaching education, youth national teams, referees, grassroots grants and everything else under the purview of any good federation. We also need to find ways to steer more sponsors, including those who make a big show of supporting those at the very top of the women’s soccer development pyramid, toward the NWSL and youth academies.

But the teams’ lofty status in the global compensation standings surely won’t change, even if the men end up giving up some of their pie-in-the-sky bonus prospects to pool prize money with the women.

So what were we arguing about again?

One thing that has changed during the eon in which this fight has been going on is U.S. Soccer leadership. Sunil Gulati, Carlos Cordeiro, Dan Flynn, Lydia Wahlke and members of the Seyfarth Shaw  law firm are all gone. But the association leaders and lawyers are still in place.

Maybe it’s time to start fresh, settle the suit before it drains the wallets of all involved, pressure FIFA’s sponsors to pressure FIFA to even out the prize money, and try to make Americans at least as good at soccer as they are at law and PR?

35 comments about "U.S. Soccer calls players unions' bluff".
  1. Wayne Norris, September 16, 2021 at 6:29 p.m.

    Again, Beau is the only Media member who knows and / or cares about the facts of this ridiculous situation.

    Next step is to somehow get pickled up by mainstream media......

    Anyway you can get on Today Show?!

  2. Beau Dure replied, September 16, 2021 at 9:32 p.m.

    Wayne, I did work for NBC during the Olympics, but I didn't make any such contacts b 

    But a few other people get it, too. 

  3. Wayne Norris replied, September 17, 2021 at 10:51 a.m.

    Beau, congrats!

    just amazing to me how USWNT has been able to contrail the narrative on this to the point that I doubt 95% of public even know what they are demanding.

    btw, I am in no way excusing US Soccer's treatment of them over the years. However, that has been resolved moving forward so this entire situation should be resolved easily with reasonable pay negotiations.

  4. Bob Ashpole replied, September 21, 2021 at 2:15 p.m.

    Wayne, this is not a news article. It's an editorial giving opinions on the news. Most articles are news articles and avoid editorializing. So your complaint about the lack of opinions taking sides is misplaced.

  5. James Madison, September 16, 2021 at 7:08 p.m.

    As I have wirtten elsewhere, take the bonsu money FIFA pays US Soccer for Men's World Cup play. add the money FIFA pays US Soccer for Women's World Cup play, divide by 2, and make 1/2 the pool for the women to divide among themselves and one-half for the men to divide among themselves.  Simple.

  6. Wayne Norris replied, September 16, 2021 at 7:28 p.m.

    James, throw that by USWNT and see if you get out of the room alive!! They want FIFA bonus money that does not exist to the tune of $38 million!!

  7. Santiago 1314 replied, September 16, 2021 at 10:06 p.m.

    I would say that, That, is a Socialist Idea... Take from the Producers and give it to the "UnProducers"; BUT the whole NCAA Model works the Same... Football "Floats All Boats"... Come on you Guys, be Nice and Give your Percentage to the Women.!!!... MAN UP.!!!(Poney Up, I should say.!!!)

  8. Wayne Norris replied, September 17, 2021 at 12:02 a.m.

    look at this on a spreadsheet.......the USMNT players would need to hand over their club salaries to cover the $38M the USWNT are demanding. 

    Another idea is just schedule 3 games against Paraguay's ameratures each week. The 9-0 blowouts (32-1 shots) won't tax players much......

  9. James Thomas replied, September 17, 2021 at 1:10 p.m.

    No James Madison,  it's not that simple. Many, many people argue, persuasively,  that dividing money generated by the men's products evenly is not equitable. Now, I wouldn't mind one iota if US Soccer decided to do just what you propose, with the USMNT Players Association's blessing, or even FIFA deciding to even out the FIFA tournament pay-outs to national federations (how would that even happen? 230 million for each the men and women?). It wouldn't bother me a bit, in fact may even be something I would like. But it wouldn't be "fair". The USWNT advocates just need to quit lying. The indisputable, yet oft-disputed, fact is there are far more consumers of the men's products than the women's. And everything starts with that cold, hard fact. Advocates for the women's Game, including me, will just have to work to raise the market share for the women's game the old fashioned way.

  10. Jim Hougan replied, September 17, 2021 at 1:20 p.m.

    I second Madison's motion.  It may not be the best solution, but it's a coherent one.  As things now stand, the situation is a tar-pit reminiscent of "Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce."

  11. Bob Ashpole replied, September 18, 2021 at 7:18 p.m.

    Mr. Thomas, economic hardship, even to the extent of bankruptcy, is not an excuse for gender pay discrimination.

  12. Bob Ashpole, September 16, 2021 at 11:06 p.m.

    I can well believe that the judge didn't mention the FIFA payments to the national federations, because those are outside the scope of the EPA and Title VII. What is withing the scope is what USSF promised and paid to the players.

    I just don't understand why so many people don't see the difference.

  13. Peter Bechtold, September 17, 2021 at 1:04 a.m.

    This will ruin soccer in the USA if it continues. I am old enough to remember when "Friday night boxing" was Huuuuge on tv; then it went to extremes and disappeared. 
    If anybody wants to know, the USWNT players are the most advantaged women soccer players of any on earth now; will they just ruin it for themselves, or bring down soccer altogether ?

  14. Mike Tamaro, September 17, 2021 at 10:42 a.m.

    Should the federation be fighting FIFA rather than its own team?

  15. Beau Dure replied, September 26, 2021 at 10:20 a.m.

    Another way of looking at it -- shouldn't the players be fighting FIFA rather than their own federation?

  16. Santiago 1314, September 17, 2021 at 1:49 p.m.

    Seems like we Should be Studying WNBA and NBA.... Same Criteria Maybe.???. Most teams Have same Owner, how do they Split the Pie.???

  17. frank schoon replied, September 18, 2021 at 11:51 a.m.

    Santiago, I like to know which WNBA team, after so many years, contributes to the positive instead  of the red for these owners

  18. Bob Ashpole replied, September 18, 2021 at 3:54 p.m.

    Owner and employer are two different concepts. Don't conflate them.

  19. Santiago 1314 replied, September 20, 2021 at 4:13 p.m.

    Google says.!?!?!?...7.6 BILLION vs 60 Million... Couldn't find any article about a WNBA team that is "Independently" Making it... But, That having been said; for some Reason,  The NBA sees Value in Subsidizing the WNBA... If you "Own the Building, it Probably is Good to fill it Up, on the "Off" Nights.... Keeps your Staff Busy and Working in the "Down Times"

  20. Wooden Ships, September 17, 2021 at 2:37 p.m.

    Let me see (what's the definition of tedious), being that this is the era of reparations and white guilt. Perhaps University professors should settle this. Maybe General Milley could buttress the prosecution with his shame and rage. Shazam, I've got it, let's abandon, as many want to do, supply and demand. Sorry, I could women at the university level and I adored, still do, those that played for me. They were tough as nails. The USSF and FIFA have been slow and negligent with fields, accomadations, et., for years. That needs to be corrected, but the forcing of attitudinal and cultural norms has to cease. Time and experiences change heart and minds, as it always has. 

  21. Bob Ashpole replied, September 18, 2021 at 4:10 p.m.

    WS, laws have always functioned to prohibit and deter behavior to protect the common interest. Unfortunately, history has long established that unchecked greed drives some people to prey on others to satisfy a lust for power and wealth. Time passes, technology changes, but human nature does not change. The US Constitution has always given the federal government the power to regulate interstate commerce for the benefit of all. That is why rich and powerful people contest to control the federal government.

  22. Wooden Ships replied, September 18, 2021 at 6:05 p.m.

    Bob, not sure you see the world as it is. You must concur that the size and reach of a large and expanding central government is in the common mans interest. You sound very Marxist. You believe wealthy people are detrimental. I guess government should surpass private enterprise as the largest employer. But, government doesn't create anything it just absorbs. I know many wealthy individuals, stinking wealthy perhaps in your mind, but they are the most philanthropic, in many cases anonymously. Rewarding effort, innovation and accomplishment has been our way. The hypocrisy from your point of view is lock step with the direction this administration is trending. Adam Smiths "Wealth of Nations" provides the best perspective regarding how best to look after one another-economically. By the way, how are things going nationally and internationally with your party of choice? Can you tell me of any positive development with your ideology? Respectfully.

  23. Bob Ashpole replied, September 18, 2021 at 7:45 p.m.

    WS: I have 3 comments in response.

    1. The first sentence is the objective of US laws, but I was wrong in saying that US laws has always worked that way. (I don't think this is a significant qualification.)

    2. I didn't say that all rich and powerful people were driven by greed. Neither did you say that all were not. I suggest that our experiences are different because I have known no rich people socially. As a former federal employee, I dealt with many wealthy and powerful people engaged in criminal activity and fraud. In my dealings honest people stoodout like a lighthouse beacon.

    3. I am disappointed that you have resorted to name-calling. You don't know me. I am an independent conservative. I believe in the American values and beliefs represented in the Constitution and the Declaration of Indepence. I am no more a Marxist than the founding fathers. Saying that I sound like a Marxist calls into question your understanding of political philosophy. For the record, the founding fathers were not revolutionaries. They were reactionaries and for the most part wealthy men.

  24. Wooden Ships replied, September 19, 2021 at 10:06 a.m.

    Yes Bob, we do not no each other, but I do like you. Name calling? Your thoughts on matters do seem Marxist on occasion, IMO. You're an attorney by training, I'm a sociologist. I'm sure we've studied much of the same content, at least in regard to philosophy. Like many in law enforcement, while as a federal prosecutor, you dealt with the seedier side of things. Our experiences do color our view and paradigm of human nature. Perhaps I'm the idealist here. Mistakingly, in my previous post I mentioned that the everyday/comman man was benefiting from a large central government, it should have said not benefiting. I will tell you that I don't hold in high regard the legal profession, my observations-experiences, but do have many good friends that are. 

  25. Bob Ashpole, September 19, 2021 at 1:40 p.m.

    My undergraduate major was similar to General Studies. I had the most credits in Philosophy by far. One of my courses was a survey of the most important political philosophers. So I have actually read Marx and certain that I am not a Marxist. During the 70's a lot of my professors cited Marx but I suspect few had actually read Marx (aside from the Professors of Philosophy). It was an academic fad at the time. I also found valuable a comparative governments political science course. I was shocked to learn what a fine line distinguished a successful democracy from a failed one. (I.e., USA vs. Soviet Union). 

    The most important philosopher to understanding our founding fathers and the basis of our government is John Locke and the Social Contract theory. Geo. Washington once referred to him as the greatest man who had ever lived.

    While I took some sociology courses, I was disappointed in all but one class. I took a "social psychology" class in how to research using surveys from 2 professors that were famous for their work in women's studies. The 2 professors were very impressive, as was the course too. (This was 20 years before women's studies became a department at my school.)

    My distinction earlier between revolutionaries and reactionaries is important because reactionaries are conservatives working to maintain the status quo.  

  26. frank schoon replied, September 19, 2021 at 3:43 p.m.

    Bob, what would you call a conservative who believes in the concept of change. For example I'm conservative and believe in Climate Change for the Climate has been changing since the beginning. A good example has been our Ice Ages that came and went not through Industrialization or other human endeavors that many today put a blame on.. Would you call me an reactionary because I don't believe for one bit that time climate changes are mainly due to man. What happened to the cause(s) which produced and eliminated the previous Ice Ages, has this now been usurped by man's activity"?....This is where I believe that the terms revolutionary and reactionary have little application or meaning. 

    Your college definition that conservatives maintain status quo is way too simplistic. Nothing in this universe, philosophically, cosmically, or pertaining to life itself in all its forms maintains a status quo. That's impossible! The discussion of revolutionaries and reactionaries, is meaningless, for everything has Ying Yang application.  It is like someone sitting in the first car on the roller coaster turning around yelling at someone seated a few cars behind him, proclaiming that he's smarter , more knowledgeable because he sees things sooner coming up ahead, without realizing that perhaps this person a few cars behind him has a better understand of things.

    I would not call those who created this country, the founders, as revolutionary, for today they might be called reactionary....What that says is that the founders believed in the omnipresent right  called freedom, which is the underlying base of man's existence, freedom of movement, freedom of thinking, freedom of existing, etc. that can never change, although some on the political spectrum leaning towards the democratic party are doing a good of trying to dispell those notions of freedom for their so-called greater good.

  27. Bob Ashpole replied, September 19, 2021 at 5:24 p.m.

    Politics and current events are two separate things. Your position on Climate Change should not be determined by political beliefs. Unfortunately, today we have millions of people making which side of the bed they get out of in the morning a political debate.

    The change the founding fathers were resisting was their loss of the traditional rights of an English free man.

    While I don't know the particulars of The Netherlands, my understanding is that Europeans  talked about the "natural rights" consistent with later European philosophers. In the US we refer to them as God-given unalienable rights. 

    Here is a unrelated thought: atheism is not a religion. John Locke wrote the colonial constitution for the Carolinas and the freedom of religion did not extend to atheists. I don't think it significant as the other rights do extend to atheists, such as freedom of speech and assembly. Moreover the constitution restricts the federal government's power to act (no official religion). Under the Equal Protection clause, those protections apply to everyone.  

  28. frank schoon replied, September 19, 2021 at 6:19 p.m.

    Bob, my position on Climate Change is not based on political beliefs unlike  how it is presented today . As I've stated climate change has been around from the beginning and it has nothing to do with politics, supposedly....but one political party  sure as hell is making it to be.....

    Obviously the Magna Carta has had a major influence on all men ,anglos, since it was signed and it  follows that it had an influence on our founding fathers as well. Freedom is situated on a sliding scale, it moves ,it changes but the underlying notion of freedom is a natural right for everyone regardless of how philosphers view it....

  29. Bob Ashpole replied, September 20, 2021 at 1:19 a.m.

    Remember I am talking philosophy rather than as a historian or even political scientist.

    The Magna Carta could be seen by Monarchists as the King giving rights to his subjects.

    The Declaration of Independence was entirely different. No one asked for the King to sign it. It listed all the many ways that the King had broken the "social contract" between King and subject and then declared independence as a remedy for the breaches. (Cancelled the broken social contract as a matter or right, not permission.) Bold and successful where others had failed. 

    When the US Constitution followed the Articles of Confederation, it was equally ground breaking. No one needed to explain the context of those events, because most of the founding fathers lived it. Today, most citizens have never read any of those documents even though they all studied civics in high school. They don't understand the context of any of these documents or know the contents of the documents. I think that is a factor in how easily a large minority of voters can be mislead by politicians and con men.

    This brings me back to what some of the old hands posting here complain about: a lack of respect while representing the USA. The issue isn't really about political views, but rather the time, place, and manner in which those views were expressed. (I sure hope that nobody here supports racial injustice.)

  30. Santiago 1314, September 20, 2021 at 2:05 a.m.

    Dang,  Out of Town this weekend with La Novia... Looks like I Missed a Good College Course on U.S. Political History... jajaja ... The U.S. has HAD the Biggest Influence on Modern History, But unfortunately,  those days are drawing to a Close, Unless the Voters Change Direction from the Current Course... The Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire comes to Mind.... Debacle in Afganistan,  Riots in the Streets from Left and Right, No Real Policing,  Migrant Invasions at the Border, Out of Control Inflation and Govt Spending, Educators that Teach Students that your Color is the Most important thing about you, Instead of The Content of Your Character... And YES, Players that Kneel Down, Or Won't put their Hand Over Their Heart, during The Playing of The National Anthem...What is Working Correctly in this Country.???

  31. frank schoon replied, September 20, 2021 at 8:32 a.m.

    Santiago, your absence has not caused you to miss anything. You are still way up on things ,Amigo mio.....And what is working correctly in this country? Good question!!! I hope that will soon be established AGAIN!!!! What's that song called 'Hellbound Train" by Savoy Brown that we're on....I'm playing it right now......I want to get back on to the "Train kept on A-Rollin" (like it was) by the Yardbirds!! my favorite group .....

  32. Santiago 1314 replied, September 20, 2021 at 11:22 a.m.

    Yeah, i'm pretty Pessimistic right now...
    Like your songs... Not sure if you had heard this one.??? ... From John Ondrasik of "Five for Fighting"  Fame...Superman, 100years, Chances(The Blind Side Movie)... Haunting, Disturbing... Not PC, Sorry.!!!... Blood on Our Hands

  33. Santiago 1314 replied, September 20, 2021 at 4:06 p.m.

    I Like you Song Selection... I guess ¿Someone? Didn't like the Song I Posted to you in Response... It got "Cancelled".!!!

  34. frank schoon replied, September 20, 2021 at 4:29 p.m.

    listening to the song right now as I"m typing.....It is an appropriate song and ofcourse I"m thinking of your son's service too....

  35. Santiago 1314, September 27, 2021 at 12:32 a.m.

    Thanks Frank... He just got back Thursday... I'm feeling better,  Getting Ready for October USA Games.!!!

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