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Volume 26 No. 207
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Jury Trial Could Be Ultimate End Game In USWNT-U.S. Soccer Feud

Members of the USWNT originally had agreed to meet with the USSF secretly in N.Y.
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Members of the USWNT originally had agreed to meet with the USSF secretly in N.Y.
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Members of the USWNT originally had agreed to meet with the USSF secretly in N.Y.
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The USWNT's gender-discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation is most likely headed for a "jury trial" after mediation broke down just "three days" into the process, according to Liz Clarke of the WASHINGTON POST. The decision to end the talks was made public by USWNT spokesperson Molly Levinson, who issued a statement last night explaining that the players had concluded that the USSF and President Carlos Cordeiro were determined "to perpetuate fundamentally discriminatory workplace conditions and behavior." The USSF "countered with a statement characterizing Levinson’s remarks as 'inflammatory' and 'intended to paint our actions inaccurately and unfairly.'" USSF Chief Communications Officer Neil Buethe "reiterated the federation’s hope that mediation would produce an agreement" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/15).

STUCK AT A STANDSTILL: In N.Y., Andrew Das notes the USWNT and USSF had "agreed to meet secretly for several days" in N.Y. The sessions were to be the "most substantive face-to-face discussions between the team and the federation about equal pay and other workplace issues since they hammered out the details" of the current CBA in April '17. However, after "fiery statements from each side, the players and the federation signaled they remain far apart." With no further mediation sessions scheduled, and "old battles line seemingly reforming, the sides appear headed back to federal court -- and perhaps to a trial next year" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/15). SI.com's Grant Wahl noted if the case "goes back into the court system, it would trigger a period of discovery that would be unlikely to be in the interests" of the USSF. At the same time, the players would "face a real risk in the court system that winning their case would not be a slam dunk." It is "certainly possible, though, that both sides may still be posturing ahead of a potential settlement that would avoid having the case go back into the courts" (SI.com, 8/14). UCLA law professor Steven Bank tweeted it is "likely" the case and "possible appeals will run beyond the end of the USWNT CBA." Bank: "Since it will be difficult to negotiate a new CBA w/o closure on the case, labor strife is almost assured for another 2-3 years+ if they let this go to trial" (TWITTER.com, 8/14). 

IT WAS NEVER GOING TO BE EASY: SOCCER AMERICA's Paul Kennedy wrote given the "complexity of the facts of the case, the various dynamics involved in the case and the multiple arenas in which the equal pay fight is taking place, it was hard to imagine that there would be a quick resolution." Attorneys for the players and the federation are "slated to appear in Federal court on Monday for a scheduling conference, where they will present their discovery plans and case schedule." The case "would not go to a jury trial -- assuming there is no settlement -- until the end" of '20, after the Tokyo Games (SOCCERAMERICA.com, 8/15). USA TODAY's Nancy Armour writes the USSF is "never going to best the U.S. women in the court of public opinion." The numbers are "fuzzy enough that winning in the court of law is going to be equally challenging." The USSF has "taken umbrage at some of the women’s contentions -- notably their assertion that some women earn just 38% of what a member of the men’s team does -- apparently not realizing that good lawyers present facts in whatever way is most favorable to their clients." The USSF itself has "not been above making claims that aren’t wholly accurate" (USA TODAY, 8/15).

A WOMAN'S WORTH: The N.Y. Daily News' Jane McManus tweeted, "The way US Soccer is responding to USWNT on pay equity raises the question, should a women’s team play for a federation that fundamentally finds it a less valuable property? It’s why Billie Jean King started the WTA rather than play for men who merely tolerated their presence. ... Could the USWNT appeal to friendly congressmembers to argue for a separate federation?" USA Today's Armour: "The @USWNT is @ussoccer’s most bankable commodity right now. ... Look at tix sales domestically, women have outpaced men in recent years. Impossible to tell with US sponsors or TV contacts bc they’re bundled. Regardless, they’re doing same job as the men - and they’re doing it better" (TWITTER.com, 8/15).