The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie Peterson, Jan. 21, 2019

Welcome to The (new and improved) IX, reflections on the USWNT, what makes Hope continue?

A loss to France—Hope Solo interview—must-click woso links

First off, may you all have a blessed day today, Martin Luther King Day. I try to use this day for reflection on what I can do to help make the world a more inclusive place, both with my words and with my actions. I’m attending a community reading of King’s speeches at the Portland Playhouse.

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So I’m so excited about the new and improved IX! Welcome Lindsay Gibbs and Carly Grenfell to the family! Lindsay is going to have tennis on Tuesday and Carly will have golf on Thursday. I’m a big fan of Lindsay and the Burn it All Down podcast. If you’re not listening, you should be. And I’m looking forward to reading Carly! I’ve lamented for the past several years that Portland’s LPGA event has coincided with the opening weekend for college football.

I also wanted to thank everyone for subscribing and encouraging us to continue this work. I’ve missed Excelle Sports since that website’s demise in 2017. Women’s sports deserve more forums that just ESPNW, or an occasional obscure link on a sports site that is devoted to clickbait. Readers deserve content that is thoughtful and original. At The IX, we’re going to point you to some of this content in an easily navigated newsletter, every weekday. And while we’re at it, it’s kind of fun to share what we’re thinking about, and give you a little “behind the story” chats with different newsmakers.

That said, I’m thinking about the USWNT’s loss to France. While I know there have been some breathless “sky is falling” takes on Twitter, let’s face it: Nobody really feels that way. Literally everyone who follows the sport sees this loss for what it was.

Sure, the 28-game unbeaten streak is over. But that really meant nothing except bragging rights. And sure, the United States was without three of its regular starters — Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath and Julie Ertz — who were held out as a precaution. Seriously, they could have had hangnails. Better safe than sorry. But what really got me riled up was the over-the-top criticism of Emily Fox. Yes she got torched on France’s first goal. But it was just her third cap. She’s not yet a junior at UNC.

Despite this performance, she still shows promise. And from what I know about her, she’ll learn from this.

Jill Ellis said: “That’s why you put her in those situations. At this point, it’s continuing to encourage her. Because she’s by no means a finished product, but she’s got a lot of good things in her that we like.”

One other note on the loss. Since Ellis was clearly looking at her options for reserves going forward, I was disappointed Adrianna Franch didn’t get a start. On one hand, I understand that it’s important to get Alyssa Naeher as much work as possible in the run-up to the World Cup. She’s obviously the anticipated starter in June. But I think Franch has shown she deserves a look. And I know what you’re thinking: Of course Annie wants to see Franch get a shot — she’s from Portland! But I’m not a Franch apologist. I honestly think she should get a look.

Which naturally transitions us to the next topic: Hope Solo. Love her or hate her, it’s arguable that Solo would still be the team’s best option in goal if she was with the team. Ok, so she’s 37, but I don’t think she would have had a dramatic drop off following the Rio Olympics. Goalkeepers tend to have longer careers. Look at Nadine Angerer. Has Naeher (theoretically) surpassed her? Perhaps having Solo still lingering would have pushed Naeher?

I talked to Solo for a story I’m doing for the AP, and she addressed her feelings about watching the U.S. team from afar. We spoke for nearly an hour and covered a lot of topics: One of them is her ongoing lawsuit against U.S. Soccer. A hearing is set for Feb. 21. Below is an excerpt from the interview about why she continues to pursue the lawsuit, and why equal pay is still important.

This Week in Women’s Soccer

(Reminder! The underlined phrases are links!)

(Another reminder! Even if you’ve already read all of these stories, click on them again! It will show the editors of these sites that there’s an audience for women’s soccer!)

Leander Schaerlaeckens takes a look at what we’ve learned from the France loss for Yahoo! Sports.

Here’s Graham Hays with three observations about the loss for ESPNw.

Stephanie Yang weighs in on the match for Stars and Stripes.

Jonathan Tannenwald with the post-game reax from Jill Ellis. No, she’s not concerned either.

Alen Stajcic was dismissed as head coach of the Matildas five month before the World Cup. Hmmmmmm. Here’s our story from AP. The Guardian looks at the dismissal here.

Avi Creditor predicts the World Cup roster for Planet Futbol.

Caitlin Murray’s four questions for the US team heading into the World Cup for The Athletic.

Speaking of Caitlin and goalkeepers, Murray had this excellent piece on Naeher.

Rachel Bachman for the Wall Street Journal with some fun intel here on the shakes that Dawn Scott prepares for the USWNT.

Here’s Kieran Theivam’s take on the game for The Equalizer.

Tweet of the Week

Five at The IX: Hope Solo

I spoke to Hope Solo recently about a wide variety of topics, including her ongoing federal lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation over equal pay. Solo spoke at length about why she continues to pursue the action, and why she has taken on a role as an activist. Her words are here, with just a few edits for brevity. I thought what she said might be interesting to you. Please note that these thoughts are Solo’s alone. U.S. Soccer and some of the players mentioned in her answer I’m sure have different takes. I certainly have conflicting feelings about her motives. But I’m not going to editorialize here.

HOPE SOLO: “To be quite honest, I don’s feel these’s a simple answer. You know, being part of the U.S. Soccer federation and being a player for close to 20 years, including being on the youth teams and being in and out of the full team, and being a part of four different CBA negotiations, I was pretty naive in my earlier years.

I remember sitting in many discussions and many meetings and asking our team as we were entering into new CBA’s `Well, why don’t we just ask to be paid the same as the men?’ or `Why don’t we ask to have the same travel as the men (meaning first class)?’ And I do recall our former attorney, which was John Langel at the time, kind of laughing like it was a non-starter. Then we actually heard from Sunil Gulati that the conversations about getting what the men were getting paid or getting accommodations like the men was something we were never going to discuss, it was a non-starter in our negotiations. And I remember thinking when I was probably — when I first got to the team I just 17 years old — I kept asking these questions at 18, 20, 21, 24, I kept asking these questions and I kept getting the same answer: It was a non-starter, we’re not going to discuss the men. And I kept wondering why. Why can’t we not get paid the same or treated the same as the men?

I felt really, really naive. I kept kind of banging my head up against a wall. To be quite honest I kept annoying people, whether it was my current teammates, whether it was the current attorney for the players’ association, or whether it was Sunil Gulati or Dan Flynn. And I I realized, looking back in hindsight, `activism’ is something that’s popular these days, even the term activism is kind of popular in our culture right now. But it was always a part of me. It was always a part of me to fight for bettering our playing conditions, for bettering the stadiums we were playing in, for bettering the doctors and trainers that were working with the women’s team. It was a philosophy I didn’t understand at the time. I think it was because I was raised by two very strong women, both my mom and my grandma. My mom had a blackbelt in karate — she got her blackbelt among men and she was one of just the few women. So I think it was how I was raised with this mindset we’re all created equal. But in reality we weren’t treated this way. So when I asked these questions of our former captains, whether it was Julie Foudy or whoever it was at the time, I was pretty much written off because it just wasn’t going to happen at the time with the U.S. soccer team.

Looking back I realized I was kind of a thorn in the side of U.S. Soccer because every CBA negotiation that came back around I would ask the same questions and never understood why we weren’t treated the same as the men. It was something that just philosophically didn’t make sense in my mind. Even Abby, even all these other players who stand for women’s rights now, at that point in time they didn’t want to ruffle feathers of the federation because they were our employers. That’s a very difficult thing to do — to be what people want to call the loudmouth or called difficult, or however they want to deem it. A woman who wants more rights was always deemed as negative at that time, whether it was bitchy or difficult, or whatever they want to call it, it was not looked at in a positive way.

Activism now is popular in our culture but for me it was something that I was taught from a young age — to always fight for our rights and never see yourself as less than another gender or human being. And that’s what I think is different in this day and age. Abby, now that she’s done playing, realizes that she could have done more. To me, we can always do more throughout our lives, we can always learn more, we can always get better. I look back and I know I looked to Abby as the captain and as the leader of our team to have done more when she played because we needed it, we needed it then.

Then in 2015 we had all decided that `Ok, we won the World Cup, we had some of the best ratings ever for soccer, men’s or women’s, in America, actually globally, and what are we going to do about it? The Equal Pay Act and Title 7 was passed in 1963, yet here we are still being treated less than men. So now as a team are we going to do something about it or are we going to continue to negotiate a CBA that is less than equal?’ I’ll never forget, we all sat together after winning the World Cup and we said `Now is the time. Now is the time to do something for the younger generations. If we can’t do it, when we’ve just won the World Cup and had great success, then possibly it can’t be done in sports in this day and age. A lot of younger generations are depending on us.’

So we sat in that room, we looked in each other’s eyes and said, `No matter what, we’re putting our foot down and we’re going to stand for equality and do what it takes to have the federation pay us equally to the men.’ And that’s when we decided to have the claim with the EEOC. That was again right after the World Cup in 2015. We had the support of congressmen and women, U.S. senators, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden. We had the public’s support, media support. Everybody was behind us. Then we had a stall. There was a change in the administration. The EEOC had our claim for over two years. I guess I realized they could sit on it as long as they wanted to. That’s when I decided to do something about it. We can’t just continue to drag our feet. So I filed, I guess five or six months ago, in federal court claiming U.S. Soccer is not compliant with the Equal Pay Act. I believe I was the first athlete ever to file over the Equal Pay Act. So that was the start of something new, that’s kind of the next step in the fight for equal pay. It’s in federal court in the northern district in the state of California. What I hope is that the current players eventually will realize there really isn’t any negotiating with U.S. Soccer. I’ve seen it over the course of four CBAs. What U.S. Soccer does is they tell us how much money they have allocated for the women and for the men and `how we want to divide it is up to us.’ But really that’s not negotiating. They tell us how much money is up for grabs. There’s no negotiating.

I believed a long time ago before this new CBA that we needed to take a stand. But what I realize now is that the current players are in a position that’s more difficult, U.S. Soccer is still their employer. But what I do hope and do believe is that eventually they’re going to realize is that the only way to get equal pay is by filing a federal lawsuit. I learned it the hard way. It’s sad. Nancy Pelosi said the other day: Nobody gives up power. U.S. Soccer isn’t going to give up power. When women got the right to vote it wasn’t because women asked for the right to vote, it was because they fought for the right to vote. The civil rights movement, everything that we get in terms of progressing as a society, is fought for. So I realize that it’s the hardest route to go, to fight, to continue to fight, to lose out. Honestly, I’ve lost endorsements because I’m an adversary to U.S. Soccer, I’ve lost out on broadcasting opportunities because I’m an adversary to U.S. Soccer. These things are real. I feel the financial burden, I feel the personal burden, I feel the burden with the media. But I do know that you have to fight to create change in the world and that’s what I’ve set out to do and I’m not going to stop.

I swear to you, it would be so easy to just return to my 50 acres in the mountains of North Carolina with my dogs and my husband. But hopefully this is a fight that will — if I have children one day — it will benefit younger generations. And it’s something that we cannot just nicely ask for.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Lindsay Gibbs, @Linzsports ThinkProgress
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal High Post Hoops
Thursdays: Golf
By Carly Grenfell, @Carlygren
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster

Written by Annie Peterson