Megan Rapinoe

Megan Rapinoe NWSL
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USWNT’s Rapinoe, Heath among players opting out of NWSL tournament

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U.S. national team players Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath and Christen Press have opted out of the National Women’s Soccer League tournament kicking off this weekend in Utah.

Heath and Press, who played with Rapinoe on the champion World Cup team last summer in France, cited concerns about the coronavirus for their decisions not to play.

“Although I want to be on the field with my teammates doing what I love, because of the uncertainty and risks created by COVID-19, I have chosen not to participate in the NWSL Challenge Cup,” Heath, who plays for the Portland Thorns, said in a statement released by the team.

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The Challenge Cup opens Saturday with a game between the Thorns and the defending champion North Carolina Courage. The league’s teams announced their rosters on Tuesday.

Among the national team players taking part in the tournament are Chicago’s Julie Ertz, U.S. Soccer’s Player of the Year, and teammate Alyssa Naeher, North Carolina’s Crystal Dunn and Portland’s Becky Sauerbrunn.

The league was rocked by the announcement Monday that the Orlando Pride were dropping out of the tournament after six players and four staff members tested positive for COVID-19. The withdrawal leaves eight teams participating in the monthlong tournament.

A new schedule was released Tuesday following the Pride’s withdrawal. In addition to Portland’s game against the Courage on Saturday, the Chicago Red Stars will play the Washington Spirit in the late match.

Rapinoe’s team, OL Reign, did not provide a reason for her decision to sit out.

“Megan let us know that she has decided not play in the tournament. Like all NWSL players, she was given the option to participate. Farid (Benstiti, coach of the Reign) and I would love to have her with the club for the tournament, but we understand and respect her decision,” Reign CEO Bill Predmore said in a statement.

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Press released a statement through her team, the Utah Royals, that said: “It is deeply painful not to be able to play the game I love, and to watch the broader effects of the global pandemic on our league, sports, and our world. Regrettably, given the uncertainty created by COVID-19, I must elect not to participate in this tournament. I know how fortunate I am to be able to make this choice. I have enormous respect and gratitude for those who do not have the luxury to choose whether to report to work, including our selfless and heroic first responders.”

Sky Blue previously announced that Carli Lloyd would not take part in the tournament because of a minor left knee injury. Teammate Mallory Pugh won’t play because of a hip injury.

The NWSL is the first team sport in the United States to return after sports were shut down because of the coronavirus outbreak. Players were given the option of opting out without losing salaries or insurance.

Teams will be sequestered during the tournament and games will be played at stadiums in Herriman and Sandy, which are suburbs of Salt Lake City. The tournament will run through July 26.

The opener and the final will be broadcast on CBS.

U.S. Soccer repeals policy requiring players to stand during anthem

U.S. Soccer kneeling during anthem
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The United States Soccer Federation’s Board of Directors has voted to repeal Policy 604-1, which required players to stand during the national anthem.

The policy was put in place in 2017 after Megan Rapinoe knelt in peaceful protest of police brutality and the oppression of people of color in the United States, inspired by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Rapinoe first knelt with her NWSL team, the Seattle Reign, and the Washington Spirit played the anthem early so she could not kneel before a match. She then knelt in a USWNT kit and the federation put in the policy, which Rapinoe respected.

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The issue of taking a knee has been raised again thanks to widespread protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN. A video showed former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, putting his knee on George Floyd’s neck for more than 8 1/2 minutes. Chauvin and three other officers were arrested and charged.

Athletes all over the world have spoken out against racism and police brutality since the incident, with the Black Lives Matter movement echoing across the world. Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie, an American, put out an emotional video with some of the biggest names in American soccer saying “Enough is enough” interspersed with violent video of police encounters with black people.

Many Premier League teams and players have been issuing anti-racism statements on a daily basis, and Bundesliga stars such as Jadon Sancho, Marcus Thuram, and Achraf Hakimi worked protests into goal celebrations. At the Werder Bremen v. Wolfsburg match, American players John Brooks and Josh Sargent (pictured above) took a knee with their teams before kickoff.

Major League Soccer announced that it would support players’ rights to kneel during the anthem at matches this season. Crystal Palace defender Patrick van Aanholt said he would be taking a knee when the Premier League returns next week.

The policy was put in place under a different leadership group for U.S. Soccer, and the federation’s statement on the repeal is very clear with CEO Will Wilson (not a board member) and president Cindy Parlow Cone presiding over the operation. A spokesman for U.S. Soccer could not share whether the vote was unanimous as it was conducted in executive session.

The USWNT requested Monday that the USSF repeal the policy.

The USSF board includes Parlow Cone, Carlos Bocanegra, Lori Lindsey, Chris Ahrens, Steve Malik, Don Garber, Richard Moeller, John Motta, Pete Zopfi, Tim Turney, and Mike Cullina.

Here is the full statement:

The U.S. Soccer Federation affirms Black Lives Matter, and we support the fight against racial injustices.

The U.S. Soccer Board of Directors voted yesterday afternoon to repeal Policy 604-1, which required our players to stand during the national anthem. The policy was put in place after Megan Rapinoe kneeled in solidarity with the peaceful protest inspired by Colin Kaepernick, who was protesting police brutality, and the systematic oppression of Black people and people of color in America. It has become clear that this policy was wrong and detracted from the important message of Black Lives Matter.

We have not done enough to listen – especially to our players – to understand and acknowledge the very real and meaningful experiences of Black and other minority communities in our country. We apologize to our players – especially our Black players – staff, fans, and all who support eradicating racism. Sports are a powerful platform for good, and we have not used our platform as effectively as we should have. We can do more on these specific issues and we will.

It should be, and will be going forward, up to our players to determine how they can best use their platforms to fight all forms of racism, discrimination, and inequality. We are here for our players and are ready to support them in elevating their efforts to achieve social justice. We cannot change the past, but we can make a difference in the future. We are committed to this change effort, and we will be implementing supporting actions in the near future.

USWNT vow to fight on after equal pay lawsuit setback

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USWNT stars have been responding to the shock decision from a judge who dismissed their unequal pay lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF).

A judge favored the U.S. Soccer Federation in a summary judgment, saying that the USWNT’s claim that they were being paid less than the USMNT was insufficient to warrant a trial. The judge also ruled against the USWNT lawsuit when it came to their claim about playing on artificial turf rather than grass but is yet to rule on their complaints regarding travel and player care not being on an equal level to the USMNT.

The decision is a huge shock, as the USWNT players who filed the lawsuit were asking for $66 million in damages from USSF.

USWNT spokeswoman Molly Levinson said the women will immediately appeal the decision and speaking to ABC’s Good Morning America, USWNT stars Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan both vowed to continue the fight.

“Shocked, to be honest, I was very shocked with the ruling and the explanation given,” Rapinoe said. “Basically it is like if I earn one dollar every time I play and a man earns three dollars, just because I win 10 games and he only wins three games, I earn 10 dollars and he only earns nine dollars, I’m not sure that is me making more money while having to essential win everything we could have possibly won over these past few years. For me it missed the point and it was very disappointing.”

Morgan added: “We are fighting for all of it. We are just shocked. This decision was out of left field for us and for both sides it was unexpected. We will definitely be appealing this and if anybody knows anything about the heart of this team, we are fighters and we will continue to fight together for this.”

Rapinoe admitted that the USWNT have earned more than the USMNT over a certain period of time, but they’ve played in more games and they were never offered the same CBA deal as the USMNT by USSF.

“If we were under the men’s contract we would be making three times more. You can look at the total compensation but in that time period we’ve won two World Cups and just about every game we’ve played. The rate of pay is just so different. It is so frustrating. So many women go through this,” Rapinoe said.

U.S. Soccer were slammed by Joe Biden, the presumptive democratic candidate in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. He sent out a tweet on Saturday showing his support for the USWNT in their battle against the U.S. Soccer Federation for equal pay with the USMNT.

“To the USWNT: don’t give up this fight. This is not over yet. To U.S. Soccer: equal pay, now. Or else when I’m president, you can go elsewhere for World Cup funding,” Biden said.

Morgan added that although this was a setback, the USWNT remain strong and determined.

“This is definitely a hurdle in the road but nothing that is going to stop or deter us from what we’ve always been true to. That is true equality within the sport. We are still feeling optimistic and we will get through this,” Morgan said.

USWNT stars react to dismissal of equal pay lawsuit

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Stars from the USWNT have reacted to the dismissal of their equal pay lawsuit from a judge.

A judge favored the U.S. Soccer Federation in a summary judgment, saying that the USWNT’s claim that they were being paid less than the USMNT was insufficient to warrant a trial.

Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Ali Krieger have all released statements to go along with the USWNT spokeswoman who said they are ‘shocked and disappointed’ by the summary judgement.

USWNT captain Rapinoe said ‘we will never stop fighting for equality’ and Krieger added ‘we will continue to fight like hell and get what we deserve.’

Striker Alex Morgan added: ‘although disappointing to hear this news, this will not discourage us in our fight for equality.’

The judge also ruled against the USWNT lawsuit when it came to their claim about playing on artificial turf rather than grass but is yet to rule on their complaints regarding travel and player care not being on an equal level to the USMNT.

The decision is a huge shock, as the USWNT players who filed the lawsuit were asking for $66 million in damages from USSF.

USWNT spokeswoman Molly Levinson said the women will immediately appeal the decision.

“We are shocked and disappointed with today’s decision, but we will not give up our hard work for equal pay. We are confident in our case and steadfast in our commitment to ensuring that girls and women who play this sport will not be valued as lesser just because of their gender. We have learned that there are tremendous obstacles to change; we know that it takes bravery and courage and perseverance to stand up to them. We will appeal and press on. Words cannot express our gratitude to all who support us.”

Rapinoe: USWNT ‘doesn’t buy’ apology from U.S. Soccer

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USWNT star Megan Rapinoe has hit out at U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) and their president Carlos Cordeiro as they issued a hastily-arranged apology to the U.S. women’s national team.

She’s not buying it.

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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. The filing also claimed that the women have it easier because fierce away crowds are tougher on the men. Multiple major sponsors, including Coca-Cola, issued statements condemning the language in the court filing and supporting the USWNT.

Rapinoe, 34, scored a superb free kick as the USWNT beat Japan 3-1 on Wednesday to win a third SheBelievesCup and speaking to the media after the game and following Cordeiro’s apology, Rapinoe wasn’t best pleased with the conduct of the USSF.

“We don’t buy it….That wasn’t for us. That was for fans, media, sponsors…” Rapinoe said. “Every negotiation we’ve had, those undertones are in there that we’re lesser. Every mediation session that we had, any time we meet with them and obviously the reason we filed this lawsuit. So for him to put that out saying sorry, presuming it’s for us, we don’t buy it. That wasn’t for us at all, that was for everybody else.”

The USWNT 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.

Cordeiro’s apology came after details were released of a court filing as the USSF and USWNT are locked in an equal pay lawsuit, with the blame put at the foot of the USSF lawyers.

Lawyers for the USWNT want $66 million in damages and Cordeiro finished his statement by saying “we will continue to work to resolve this suit in the best interest of everyone involved.”

It is safe to say the language used by the USSF lawyers will not help at all when it comes to getting this situation resolved and the USWNT now have even more backing outside of the courtroom.