New US Soccer leadership: Settling women’s lawsuit priority

NEW YORK (AP) — The newly installed president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Soccer Federation used their first news conference to say that settling a lawsuit filed by women’s national team players is their priority.

“A lot of damage has been done, and I think we are going to have to rebuild that trust and rebuild the relationship, and it’s not going to happen overnight,” President Cindy Parlow Cone said Tuesday. “It’s going to take a lot of effort and time and energy for the U.S. Soccer side to rebuild that trust, not only with our U.S. women’s national team players, but with our fans and everyone engaged in sport.”

Players claim 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 in federal court in Los Angeles.

“The solution here is clear, simple, and unequivocal: equal pay,” responded Molly Levinson, spokeswomen for the players.

In legal papers filed this month ahead of the trial, the USSF claimed the women’s team didn’t have the physical abilities or the same responsibilities as the men’s team. That sparked a furor that led to the resignation of USSF President Carlos Cordeiro and caused the federation to change its lead law firm.

Parlow Cone, a World Cup and Olympic champion, had been the USSF vice president before Cordeiro quit on March 12.

“The comments and the language in last filing,” Parlow Cone said, “I think not only hurt our relationship with our women’s national team, but hurt women and girls in general, and as a former national player, they were personally hurtful to me.”

Will Wilson, a former MLS executive and the uncle of retired NFL quarterback Andrew Luck, was hired as chief executive officer Monday to replace Dan Flynn, who retired in September. Wilson had been co-head of the NFL division of the Wasserman Media Group, which represents players.

“The wording, the comments in the filing were quite frankly shocking and very, very disappointing to me,” Wilson said.

Parlow Cone said she is part of the USSF’s board special litigation committee along with youth council representative Tim Turney and independent director Patti Hart. She said the committee was never given a chance to review the filings before they were submitted to the court.

“There was a fundamental error in our processes,” Parlow Cone said.

She said it was too soon to decide whether she would run next February to complete the final year of Cordeiro’s term. Parlow Cone also said the USSF is open to having the women and men negotiate together for a common labor deal, but said the decision is up to the two unions.

Wilson said it was not clear whether the postponement of the Olympics would cause Nike and other sponsors to decrease payments to the USSF this year.