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US Soccer argued in equal pay lawsuit that women's players are not as good as men — now they've apologized


Probably shouldn't have said that

Alika Jenner/Getty Images

The United States Soccer Federation, which has been sued by the U.S. women's national team over alleged unequal pay, apologized Wednesday for arguing in court that women players aren't as skilled and athletic as men, according to the Associated Press.

What's this about?

The women's national team, which on the field is much more successful than the men's team, claims it is unfairly paid less than the men. The reality is not so clear, as the different pay structures prevent a perfect comparison of the two sides.

The gender discrimination lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles in 2019, and the women are seeking $66 million in damages under the Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

What did the USSF say?

From the Associated Press:

"A reasonable juror could conclude that the job of MNT player requires materially different skill and more responsibility than plaintiffs' job does, while also taking place under materially different working conditions," USSF lawyers wrote. "The job of MNT player (competing against senior men's national teams) requires a higher level of skill based on speed and strength than does the job of WNT player (competing against senior women's national teams)."

Molly Levinson, a spokesperson for the women's team, criticized that argument as sexist.

"It sounds as if it has been made by a caveman," Levinson said in a statement. "Literally everyone in the world understands that an argument that male players 'have more responsibility' is just plain simple sexism and illustrates the very gender discrimination that caused us to file this lawsuit to begin with."

The apology

USSF president Carlos Cordeiro issued the following statement:

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. 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.
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