USSF Wanted Mediation Deal Kept Private Until After World Cup
U.S. Soccer and the USWNT players suing the federation are "interested in resolving the long-standing disagreement over pay and working conditions via mediation rather than a courtroom," but U.S. Soccer had hoped to defer public discussion of potential mediation talks until after the World Cup, according to sources cited by Liz Clarke of the WASHINGTON POST. After the Wall Street Journal on Friday reported the two sides' tentative agreement to pursue mediation, a U.S. Soccer spokesperson said: "We are disappointed the plaintiffs’ counsel felt it necessary to share this news publicly during the Women’s World Cup and create any possible distraction from the team’s focus on the tournament and success on the field" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/22). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Rachel Bachman in the original report cited a source as saying that lawyers for the USWNT "reached out to U.S. Soccer’s lawyers after the World Cup kicked off to ask if the federation would sit down for mediation talks" and the players' lawyers "requested that U.S. Soccer agree to mediation after the World Cup ends." The sources said that if the federation "didn’t agree, the players’ lawyers indicated they would ask the court to require U.S. Soccer to participate in mediation." U.S. Soccer has said any pay differences between the men's and women's teams are due to their separate CBAs. The players' co-lead counsel Jeff Kessler said that the parties met in DC on March 27 to "discuss a possible settlement, but nothing was resolved" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/22).
LONG WAY TO GO: In L.A., Kevin Baxter noted while agreeing to mediation is a "positive sign, it is no guarantee a settlement will be reached or a trial will be avoided." The process "simply means that both sides agree to present their arguments, in private, to a mediator who, unlike a judge or an arbitrator, has no power to issue a legally binding decision." Complicating things for the federation is the "fact that agreeing to the players’ demand would require altering" the CBA to which their union has "already agreed." That would "set a dangerous precedent both the men’s and women’s teams could exploit going forward" (L.A. TIMES, 6/23).
MAKING THEIR CASE: In DC, Clarke & Goff noted the USWNT "steamrolled through the group stage" of the World Cup by "scoring a record 18 goals and conceding none in three matches." Off the field, the U.S. women have "parlayed their dominant performances into major leverage in the court of public opinion." They have "staged globally televised clinics in athletic excellence, making their case for equal pay with every goal and shutout" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/23).