Carlos Cordeiro

Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

Cindy Parlow Cone becomes U.S. Soccer president at critical juncture

Leave a comment

New U.S. Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone’s first challenge will be to confront the fallout over the federation’s widely condemned legal stance in the gender discrimination lawsuit filed by the women’s national team.

The first woman president in the 107-year history of the governing body will also oversee the appointment of a new chief executive and early preparations for the 2026 World Cup.

A former national team midfielder who became the federation’s vice president last year, Parlow Cone took on her new role Thursday when President Carlos Cordeiro abruptly stepped down.

Cordeiro was facing a growing outcry from players, board members, supporters and sponsors over assertions made in court documents filed this week. USSF lawyers suggested the women’s team was inferior because the players had fewer responsibilities and less physical skill than male national team counterparts.

Former teammates rallied in support of Parlow Cone, who has the unenviable task of damage control.

“I have known Cindy Parlow Cone for over two decades as both a teammate and friend. She has always led with integrity and a commitment to others. I have no doubt that she will dedicate herself to making our game better for all,” Mia Hamm said on social media.

Fellow teammate Julie Foudy wrote: “I played with Cindy for many years. I know Cindy. She understands ALL the players are going through having lived it. And she is one hell of a human. Give her a chance to succeed. Please.”

Now 41, Parlow Cone scored 75 goals in 158 appearances for the U.S. from 1995 to 2006, winning the 1999 World Cup and two Olympic gold medals with the team. She retired because of post-concussion syndrome.

She was coach of the Portland Thorns during the National Women’s Soccer League’s inaugural season in 2013, leading the team to the league’s first title before stepping down to spend time with her family.

She was elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2018, and was voted in as USSF vice president in 2019.

Parlow Cone will serve as president until the federation’s annual general meeting next February. An election will be held then to complete Cordeiro’s term, which runs until the regular election for a four-year term in 2022.

Parlow Cone takes on the presidency at a critical juncture. USSF is currently conducting a search for a new CEO to replace Dan Flynn, who retired last September. Brian Remedi is currently serving as chief administrative officer in addition to chief stakeholder officer.

The federation is also in the midst of early preparations for the 2026 men’s World Cup with Canada and Mexico. An expanded field of 48 teams will play in 16 cities across the three countries.

But her most pressing issue is to contain the furor over the USSF’s legal stance in documents filed Monday in federal court in Los Angeles. The documents were filed in connection to the gender discrimination lawsuit filed by women’s national team players last year.

The players say they have not been paid equally to the men’s national team and asked for more than $66 million in damages under the Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 . A trial is scheduled for May 5.

Sponsors including The Coca-Cola Co., Anheuser Busch Cos. Inc., The Procter & Gamble Co. and Volkswagen Group issued statements in support of the women’s team. MLS Commissioner Don Garber, a USSF board member, said he was “shocked and angry” over the arguments and Parlow Cone herself denounced the legal stance on Twitter.

National team players silently protested by wearing their jerseys inside out in warmups before a match against Japan on Wednesday night in Texas. The move obscured the U.S. Soccer crest but still revealed the team’s four stars for its Women’s World Cup championships.

Cordeiro apologized for the stance, saying: “I did not have the opportunity to fully review the filing in its entirety before it was submitted, and I take responsibility for not doing so. Had I done so, I would have objected to the language.” But it was too late.

In her only public statement since becoming president, Parlow Cone thanked Cordeiro for his service to soccer. Cordeiro, formerly the organization’s vice president, was elected president after Sunil Gulati resigned because the men’s team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

“The passion that has come to the surface in the past two days is what inspires me to look forward, to work hard towards mending relationships and moving the game forward for all,” she said in a statement issued by the federation.

Former U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo, a vocal critic of U.S. Soccer, said she hoped the change at the top leads to change within the organization.

“This blatant disrespect and sexist attitude toward the women’s team is nothing new. It didn’t start with Carlos and won’t end with his resignation,” Solo said. “It’s been in place for decades, was perpetuated under Sunil Gulati and was tolerated by so many within the organization. For meaningful change to happen, it has to be institutional. Carlos cannot just be a scapegoat for U.S. Soccer’s PR strategy.”

U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro resigns

Photo by Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images
1 Comment

Carlos Cordeiro has resigned as president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, effective immediately, after coming under heavy scrutiny from other member of the U.S. Soccer Board of Directors and — perhaps most importantly — sponsors in response to the federation’s legal stance in its ongoing pay dispute with the U.S. women’s national team.

[ MORE: Arteta tests positive for coronavirus | PL to hold emergency meeting ]

“In legal papers submitted to federal court in Los Angeles as part of the USSF’s defense of a gender discrimination suit by players on the women’s team, the USSF asserted the women have lesser physical abilities and responsibilities than their male counterparts.”

Cordeiro, who was elected to succeed longtime USSF president Sunil Gulati only two years ago, released the following statement regarding his resignation.

Cindy Cone, who previously served under Cordeiro as vice president, will take over as interim president, effective immediately.

MLS commissioner, USSF VP, sponsors slam U.S. Soccer’s legal stance

Carlos Cordeiro
Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber and U.S. Soccer Federation vice president Cindy Cone criticized the legal stance taken by the USSF toward the women’s national team under president Carlos Cordeiro, who was coming under increasing pressure to resign.

A day after American women protested by wearing their warm-up jerseys inside out during the national anthem to obscure the federation logo, several USSF board members issued extraordinary rebukes that raised questions over whether Cordeiro retains their support.

In legal papers submitted to federal court in Los Angeles as part of the USSF’s defense of a gender discrimination suit by players on the women’s team, the USSF asserted the women have lesser physical abilities and responsibilities than their male counterparts. Several USSF sponsors issued statements backing the players, including The Coca-Cola Co., Anheuser Busch Cos. Inc., The Procter & Gamble Co. and Volkswagen Group.

Cordeiro issued a statement late during Wednesday’s game against Japan apologizing for the arguments presented in the documents and added the federation had retained new legal counsel, a move the men’s national team called “window dressing” and “a sleight of hand.”

Cordeiro’s statement did not assuage Garber, a member of the USSF board of directors and CEO of Soccer United Marketing, the marketing arm of both MLS and the USSF.

“I expressed to the president of the federation in no uncertain terms how unacceptable and offensive I found the statements in that filing to be,” Garber said in a statement. “Those statements do not reflect my personal view, nor do they reflect the views of the Major League Soccer and Soccer United Marketing families. I intend to immediately address this issue with the U.S. Soccer board of directors.”

Players filed the gender discrimination lawsuit in federal court in Los Angeles last year, claiming they are paid less than their counterparts on the men’s national team. The women are seeking more than $66 million in damages under the Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and a trial is scheduled for May 5.

Cordeiro, a former Goldman Sachs partner, was elected to head the USSF two years ago. He took over from Sunil Gulati, who decided not to run for re-election after the men failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

Cindy Parlow Cone, a former women’s national team player re-elected as USSF vice president last month, was among those on the USSF board criticizing the federation.

“I am hurt and saddened by the brief USSF filed,” she wrote on Twitter. “This issue means so much to me, but more broadly to all men & women and, more importantly, to little girls & boys who are our future. I disavow the troubling statements and will continue to work to forge a better path forward.”

Chris Ahrens, chair of the USSF Athletes Council and a member of the U.S. team that qualified for the 2012 Paralympic Game, wrote on Twitter he was “deeply troubled, saddened and angry.”

“The Athlete Council has requested a meeting with USSF leadership and members of the legal team to demand better,” he added. “I will continue to advocate for the often forgotten about groups and work for a more inclusive organization.”

Heather O’Reilly, an Athletes Council member who was a 2015 World Cup champion, called for Cordeiro’s resignation on Twitter.

“I am part of the Athlete Council. In 2017, we decided as a group, to vote for Carlos, to take over. There was a lot of promises and hope for change. The current released statements have shown my error in judgment,” she wrote. “I think that Carlos should resign and there should be a lengthy process of reorganization at.”

The assertions by the USSF of male physical superiority and responsibility drew widespread condemnation.

“The comments made by U.S. Soccer do not align with our values, nor our point of view on women’s soccer,” Monica Rustgi, Budweiser’s vice president of marketing, said in a statement. “We champion and admire the athleticism of the women in this sport as we find them to be among the best athletes in the world.”

The player protest before a 3-1 victory in the SheBelieves Cup provided a visual to built-up anger. Players hid the USSF crest on the jerseys but allowed the four stars – one for each World Cup title – to be visible. The players did not smile in the pre-game team photo.

“We wanted to stand together as a team and make a statement on behalf of all women and girls hat the federation`s comments are unacceptable,” the said in the statement issued by spokeswoman Molly Levinson. “We love this sport and this country, and we cannot stand for this misogynistic treatment.”

Just before the match ended, Cordeiro issued an apology.

“The federation’s submissions in court are 100% consistent with the longstanding positions and values of federation leadership,” men’s national team players said in a statement. “The effort to blame the lawyers to appease outraged federation sponsors underlines the lack of accountability and other larger problems at U.S. Soccer. The legal strategy to demean the women’s national team and their accomplishments is consistent with the federation’s overall approach to dealing with national team players.”

Players took to social media to voice their displeasure. Christen Press posted a photo of the unsmiling team, writing: “It is the great honor of my life to play this sport and represent this country. Every woman deserves equal pay and every institution anywhere that doesn’t value women as much as men must change now.”

DaMarcus Beasley, the only American man to play in four World Cups, said he was both annoyed an disappointed.

“Respectfully, this is a terrible stance by US Soccer,” Beasley wrote. “Our women are NOT inferior to men in any sense of the word. The are Olympic gold medalists and World Cup Champions!!! And incredible women!!”

Nashville midfielder Dax McCarty, a past member of the national team, wrote on Twitter the statements were “sexist, misogynistic and tone deaf” and also “horrifying.”

In an interview following the game, Megan Rapinoe, the reigning FIFA Player of the Year, addressed young players.

“You are not lesser just because you are a girl. You are not better just because you are a boy,” she said. “We are all created equal and should all have the equal opportunity to got out and pursue our dreams.”

USSF president apologizes for offending USWNT in court filing

USWNT
Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images
1 Comment

As the United States women’s national team was putting an exclamation point on its latest tournament triumph, federation leadership was apologizing for embarrassing the team.

Pretty poor timing.

U.S. Soccer Federation president Carlos Cordeiro issued an apology on Wednesday after a court filing disparaged female athletes and called the World Cup champions an inferior squad to the men’s national team.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The filing also claimed that the women have it easier because fierce away crowds are tougher on the men.

Multiple major sponsors issued statements condemning the language in the court filing and supporting the USWNT.

The team itself warmed up for Wednesday’s match with their uniform tops inside out, hiding the badge of the federation, and took its Starting XI photo as an entire squad.

Here’s Cordeiro:

On behalf of U.S. Soccer, I sincerely apologize for the offense and pain caused by language in this week’s court filing, which did not reflect the values of our Federation or our tremendous admiration of our Women’s National Team. Our WNT players are incredibly talented and work tirelessly, as they have demonstrated time and again from their Olympic Gold medals to their World Cup titles.

Even as we continue to defend the Federation in court, we are making immediate changes. I have asked the firm of Latham & Watkins to join and guide our legal strategy going forward. 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. As we do, we will continue to work to resolve this suit in the best interest of everyone involved.

It’s a whopping helping of too little, too late. However you feel about the information contained in the court filings, it’s absurd to believe Cordeiro is just now learning what’s contained inside them.

The amount of times the federation has underestimated the strength and resolve USWNT is insulting enough as it is without actual words coming into play.

At this point, the federation may have to grant equal pay just to get a modicum of egg off its face.

Judge grants USWNT class status in discrimination lawsuit

Getty Images
1 Comment

The U.S. women’s national team has been granted class status in its lawsuit against U.S. Soccer that alleges gender discrimination in compensation and working conditions.

U.S. District Court Judge R. Gary Klausner’s ruling Friday in Los Angeles expands the case beyond the 28 players who originally brought the lawsuit to include all players who had been called up to camp or played in a game over a multiyear period. U.S. Soccer had opposed the move to certify the class.

[READ: Lloyd leads USWNT, Andonovski to first win]

Twenty-eight players, including stars Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, were part of the original suit filed against U.S. Soccer in March alleging institutionalized gender discrimination that includes inequitable compensation between the men’s and women’s teams. A May 5 trial date has been set in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

The federation has maintained that compensation for each team is the result of separate collective bargaining agreements, and that the pay structures are different as a result. Men’s team players are paid largely by appearance and performance, while the contract for the women’s team includes provisions for health care and other benefits, as well as salaries in the National Women’s Soccer League.

The players disputed U.S. Soccer’s claims that some of them made more than their male counterparts, maintaining that if men had been as successful as the women’s team, they would have earned far more. The U.S. women won back-to-back World Cup titles in 2015 and 2019. The men failed to make the field for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Judge Klausner did not rule on the merits of the lawsuit but acknowledged the players’ claims that they were paid less on a per-game basis than the men and did not enjoy the same working conditions.

“The failure to provide the (women’s National Team) with equal working conditions is a real (not abstract) injury which affects each Plaintiff in a personal and individual way,” the judge ruled “Plaintiffs also have offered sufficient proof of this injury. Indeed, Plaintiffs have submitted declarations establishing that WNT players were subject to discriminatory working conditions.”

Molly Levinson, who speaks for the players in matters of the lawsuit, applauded the ruling.

“This is a historic step forward in the struggle to achieve equal pay. We are so pleased that the Court has recognized USSF’s ongoing discrimination against women players – rejecting USSF’s tired arguments that women must work twice as hard and accept lesser working conditions to get paid the same as men. We are calling on (U.S. Soccer President) Carlos Cordeiro to lead USSF and demand an end to the unlawful discrimination against women now,” Levinson said.

U.S. Soccer had “no specific comment” on the ruling.