The IX: Soccer Monday with Anne M. Peterson, August 18, 2019

It's getting ugly on the Equal Pay front, must-click links and Sam Mewis talks World Cup bump

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One nation, two sides

The dispute between U.S. Soccer and the women’s national team took an ugly turn last week.

On Wednesday, the players announced they had reaches an impasse in their talks with the federation, which were meant to resolve the team’s federal gender discrimination lawsuit. So now it looks like it’s going to trial.

And indeed, as I was writing this, word came down that a court date has been set for May 5 of next year. This is somewhat of a surprise, because it’s right before the Tokyo Olympics. Both sides had previously requested a date after the Games.

As the New York Times’ Andrew Das pointed out on Twitter, the accelerated court date may be a “nudge” to get the sides back to the table.

But, clearly, the mediation is not going well.

First, here’s the statement from Molly Levinson, the spokesperson for the players in matters regarding the lawsuit:

“We entered this week’s mediation with representatives of USSF full of hope. Today we must conclude these meetings sorely disappointed in the Federation’s determination to perpetuate fundamentally discriminatory workplace conditions and behavior. It is clear that USSF, including its Board of Directors and President Carlos Cordeiro, fully intend to continue to compensate women players less than men. They will not succeed. We want all of our fans, sponsors, peers around the world, and women everywhere to know we are undaunted and will eagerly look forward to a jury trial.”

US Soccer responded with this:

“We have said numerous times that our goal is to find a resolution, and during mediation we had hoped we would be able to address the issues in a respectful manner and reach an agreement. Unfortunately, instead of allowing mediation to proceed in a considerate manner, plaintiffs’ counsel took an aggressive and ultimately unproductive approach that follows months of presenting misleading information to the public in an effort to perpetuate confusion. We always know there is more we can do. We value our players, and have continually shown that, by providing them with compensation and support that exceeds any other women’s team in the world. Despite inflammatory statements from their spokesperson, which are intended to paint our actions inaccurately and unfairly, we are undaunted in our efforts to continue discussions in good faith.”

Wanted to give you the full statements because, like many media outlets, the AP paraphrased them for brevity.

But YIKES, that dig at Levinson by the federation at the end of its statement came off as incredibly petty. The federation did not do itself any favors in what has really been a public relations debacle. First the lobbyists. Then the attacks on Levinson, who, frankly, is simply doing the job she was hired to do.

U.S. Soccer is undeniably losing when it comes to public perception of the dispute. That’s probably one of the reasons for the odd statement. To me, when the issue gained the attention of Congress, it really pushed the federation back on defense. At the same time, the team had quarterback Megan Rapinoe on offense.

This is likely an issue that is going to drag on for a bit, but here’s hoping there’s no further mudslinging.

On to the links.

This Week in Women’s Soccer

Reminder: First, the underlined words are the links. Second. CLICK these, even if you’ve already read them. Clicks = Attention from editors, producers and webmasters. Third, if you want to push out stuff you’ve written or read, email me!

Whoa, suspicious betting patterns for the Women’s World Cup.

ESPN secures worldwide rights to the NWSL.

ESPN’s Graham Hays on Lyon winning the ICC title. Sports Illustrated’s take on the match against the Courage. Worth clicking to see Dzsenifer Marozsan’s beautiful goal. Geez, Lyon is just loaded with talent.

The Charlotte Observer’s column on the ICC.

Steven Goff from the Washington Post writes about how U.S. clubs would benefit from more international play.

Also from the Post, Megan Rapinoe talks politics and more.

The Athletic looks at Sky Blue’s match at Red Bull Arena.

Jeff Kassouf at The Equalizer does too. Jeff also does a nice job with his analysis of the search for a new USWNT coach.

Hays also has a nice story on Penn State’s Sam Coffey. Yes, college soccer season is upon us!

Jane McManus with a column proposing the interesting idea of the USWNT breaking away from the federation.

NY Times story on how potentially 10 countries are bidding for the 2023 World Cup. Belgium has already said their inclusion on FIFA’s list was incorrect.

Insta of the Week

Five at The IX: A few moments with Sam Mewis

The media spoke to Sam Mewis following the game between the Courage and the Thorns that drew a record crowd. Here is an excerpt!

Question: You’ve seen leagues in Europe get better, you see more investment in Europe, but with you guys winning 2015 in 2019 World Cup, how much do you think having a stable lead through both those tournaments has helped advance the team?

Sam Mewis: I mean, you can definitely point to that as a correlation, between the success of the national team and the existence of this league. Obviously I wasn’t with the national team in 2015, but like I said before, the pool that the staff has to draw from and competition to make the national team is just so high and it really forces the players there to get better and it’s asking a lot from the players who aren’t there because they have an opportunity to go in at any given moment. So I think that. Having the consistency of the league and having great environments like the one we have here, the one Portland has, it’s so clearly such a great environment to play in, is pushing the level of the game so much so I think the league is definitely contributing to the success of the national team.

Question: Do you feel as a player secure in the fact that the league is going to be around at this point? Are there still steps you feel like the league needs to be taken to get to that point where you feel like it’s stable and hee to stay.

Question: I think that we’re taking steps in the right direction. I feel like it’s stable. I don’t know like how tuned in I am to what goes on behind the scenes, but I’m relying on it and I’m counting on playing here for a long time. I think that it’s going to take a lot of investment from owners, we want it to grow we want big companies to come on as sponsors, like the Budweiser thing is huge. We want more teams like we want a longer season. There are things that we can do that can continue to push the league forward and that will help the national team more. With even that aside, I feel like the league in and of itself is so important it’s a place for so many people to play. I don’t feel like it has to be like a feeder league to the national team anymore. I think it’s, being in the NWSL is a huge deal, and I think that a lot of times that gets overlooked when you don’t get into the national team because I feel like that is a goal for everybody. But I kind of want to start looking to the NWSL as totally separate in. Something where you like playing here is. That’s what people want to do because it’s like a huge accomplishment to make it to this level and I want the league to kind of stand alone in that. If that makes sense.

Question: Kind of flipping the script how important is the national team’s success contributing to the success of the NWSL. And not just the U.S. team, but the rise of Canada, for example.

Sam Mewis: I think fans who are interested in the international game, I think that the success of those national teams can serve as a catalyst to make fans interested in the NWSL, but then the NWSL has retain them. I know there’s been huge bumps in attendance for these last couple months, but I want that to continue the whole rest of the season, the whole next season. I feel like drawing in fans from events like the World Cup and the Olympics is awesome, and we just need to learn how to sustain that as league. And I think that the people who are in charge are like really making efforts to continue to push that and are taking steps in the right direction. So as players, I think we just have to keep putting out a good product and if someone’s come to their first NWSL game when they’ve only before watched the national team, I want to make sure that they enjoy it and that it’s fun to watch.

Question: Do you feel optimistic that this is going to be the last. Kind of sort of building on this?

I really hope so. I mean, obviously Portland is doing something right. There was a ton of people here today, it’s always fun to come here and play and I think that there are a lot of clubs that are doing this right. Chicago had 17,000 people the other day, it was a huge deal. I think the view of North Carolina is doing pretty consistently a good job and I really hope that that it continues — even just beyond like ticket sales and attendance. I think just the TV deal is huge and getting more eyes on the game and, like I said like retaining fans from season to season. So next year hopefully we’re getting these kinds of numbers again. But I feel optimistic. I mean, since I’ve been in the league I’ve noticed a ton of improvement and I feel like there’s a lot of people that are really invested in making this work for a long time. [00:05:12][50.3]

Question: This isn’t the first game back, people are coming to see the rivalry.

Sam Mewis: Yeah. I think that that’s the kind of thing that will sustain itself. I think that the hype from the World Cup will eventually simmer down a little bit, but if there’s rivalry games within the league, every time that happens there will be a big crowd. And those are the kinds of things I think are worth hyping up — if there’s a huge rivalry between Portland and Seattle, and other teams like that. It doesn’t matter if it’s a World Cup year or if there’s even World Cup players there because people will always want to watch those.

Question: Does it feel differently for you now, just as a World Cup winner?

Sam Mewis: Honestly no. I feel like with the Courage like we’ve always really talked about just being like a blue collar team. And I don’t ever want us to lose that identity. So I feel like when I’m playing with the Courage, like I want to be — We have this kind of like mentality still left over from when we were in Western New York and I never want to lose that. I think that it’s kind of just like this gritty mentality that we all take a lot of pride in. So I don’t really like think about anything else when I’m out there like about the World Cup or anything.

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