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Volume 26 No. 85
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USSF Hiring Lobbyists Latest Step In USWNT's Pay Dispute Case

The U.S. Soccer Federation has hired two DC lobbying firms to "push back against claims that it pays the women’s national team less than half of what it pays the men’s team," according to Theodoric Meyer of POLITICO. FBB Federal Relations and Van Ness Feldman have been hired by the USSF to "help convince lawmakers the women’s claims are inaccurate." USWNT spokesperson Molly Levinson in a statement said the players were "stunned and disappointed" U.S. Soccer "would spend sponsor dollars and revenue to advocate against laws that ensure that women are paid equally to men." The men’s national team "described U.S. Soccer’s lobbying efforts as 'disappointing but not surprising.'" The lobbyists last month circulated a presentation that "emphasizes the benefits the women’s team players receive -- including a guaranteed salary, maternity leave, a nanny subsidy, health benefits, retirement perks, and injury protection -- that players on the men’s team do not." However, Levinson said the presentation "inflated and cherry-picked numbers." The numbers "don’t take into account that the women’s team played 20 games last year" (POLITICO.com, 8/7). Buethe said that the hiring of the firms was "not intended to combat the legislation being put forward, but rather an effort to ensure that the information available is accurate." He added that the USSF "received two separate letters asking for information, and that the hiring of the lobbying firms" was the "best way to get that information across" (ESPN.com, 8/7).

ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL: YAHOO SPORTS' Caitlin Murray wrote the hiring of the firms is "sure to ratchet up tension" between the federation and the women's team. U.S. Soccer's presentation "oversimplifies and misrepresents" some points, which is "sure to only anger the USWNT as both sides are supposedly working toward mediation" of a lawsuit. This "sharp change in tone" from U.S. Soccer is "hardly surprising -- the federation was getting crushed in the public discourse" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/7).