Yesterday, fans of the US Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) were shocked by the United States Soccer Federation's (USSF) response to a lawsuit over equal pay.
Members of the women's team are suing USSF for $67 million in back pay for what they claim is a violation of the Equal Pay Act. They claim that they have not been paid equally to the men's team, despite winning the World Cup a total of four times compared to the men's zero victories.
The federation argued that under the Equal Pay Act, “the job of a [men’s national team player] carries more responsibility within US Soccer than the job of a [women’s national team] player.”
USSF went on to suggest that there are biological differences and “indisputable science” to argue that the women's team should be paid less. They added that the men's team “requires a higher level of skill” than the women’s team.
The filing by the USSF suggested that the women's team was "ignoring the materially higher level of speed and strength required to perform the job of an [men's team] player.”
“The job of [a men's team player] (competing against senior men’s national teams) requires a higher level of skill-based on speed and strength than does the job of [women's team] player (competing against senior women’s national teams).”
Unsurprisingly, fans weren't happy with what they saw as a sexist and archaic response.
"This is a disgrace from the US Soccer Federation," one user wrote in response.
Charlie Flowe, Head Coach of the Philadelphia Lone Star's women's team, also said that he would not be renewing his coaching license with the USSF, calling the federation "sexist."
"I can't support you all," he wrote. "I am not just a coach of female players, I am the father of a girl."
And now it's emerged that sponsors aren't too happy about the federation's response either.
"We are extremely disappointed with the unacceptable and offensive comments made by US Soccer," a spokesperson for Coca-Cola told BuzzFeed News. "We have asked to meet with them immediately to express our concerns."
"The Coca-Cola Company is firm in its commitment to gender equality, fairness and women’s empowerment in the United States and around the world and we expect the same from our partners."
Deloitte, another sponsor, told Buzzfeed that they were "deeply offended by the views expressed by the USSF. Our support for the team is unwavering," the spokesperson said," they added.
A Visa spokesperson told the publication that they are planning to meet the federation over the filing, adding that the position "is one which we do not share. It is core to our philosophy at Visa that we accept everyone, everywhere. In fact, we believe the Federation should do more to ensure a level playing field for women."
Volkswagen declined to comment but said their goal was to "make soccer the preeminent sport in America by raising the game for all who participate. We believe in equality, inclusion, and access, for players, for coaches, and for fans."
While the company hasn't offered an official stance, a senior Volkswagen spokesperson in Germany told BuzzFeed, "I myself can hardly believe that these quotes were made or meant that way."
A spokesperson for Allstate told the publication that the women's team "deserve the respect and pay of world champions, which is more than equal pay.”
While Secret added: “We believe that women are deserving of equal pay and equal opportunity and we’re supportive of all those who courageously fight for this."
Following the condemnation, federation President Carlos Cordeiro said that the filing "did not reflect the values" of his organization despite being filed by lawyers representing his organization.
"On behalf of U.S. Soccer, I sincerely apologize for the offense and pain cause day 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," he said in a statement. "Our WNT players are incredibly talented and work tireless, 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."
Cordeiro added that he plans on bringing in an outside law firm to help the federation's 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," he said.