Gender Discrimination in Soccer: U.S. WNT Stands Up for Itself, Again

As you may remember, on October 1, 2014, an application was filed with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario on behalf of 80 international players on national teams participating in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The application argued gender discrimination, and suggested that artificial turf is substandard and would be unacceptable for men’s tournaments. The respondents were the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) and the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). The application was worked on by attorneys in Canada and the U.S., and withdrawn in January 2015, six months ahead of the start of the tournament.

In between the application and withdrawal “FIFA and CSA variously threatened protesting players with suspension, delayed a court decision despite the players’ need to know what surface the tournament would be held on so they could train accordingly, and suggested they would either defy an adverse legal ruling or cancel the tournament altogether. They also repeatedly rejected the players’ settlement offers—for example, to play just the semi-final and championship games on temporary grass surfaces with all installation costs covered by private companies” (source: The Atlantic, Hampton Dellinger, July 5, 2015).

In response to the withdrawal of the lawsuit, Abby Wambach (who retired from professional play after the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup) said: “our legal action has ended,  but I am hopeful that the players’ willingness to contest the unequal playing fields – and the tremendous public support we received during the effort – marks the start of even greater activism to ensure fair treatment when it comes to women’s sports” (source: The Globe and Mail, David Shoalts, January 21, 2015).

And indeed this activism has continued as the U.S. Women’s National Team (WNT) filed a claim on March 30, 2016 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) accusing U.S. Soccer of wage discrimination. The five national team players involved are Carli Lloyd, Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn – they are acting on behalf of the entire U.S. WNT.

As reported in espnW by Kate Fagan, “the U.S. women received a team total of $2 million when it won the World Cup last year in Canada. Yet when the U.S. men played in the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, the team earned a total of $9 million despite going just 1-2-1 and being knocked out in the round of 16” (source: espnW, Kate Fagan, April 1, 2016). This is just one example of the gross wage disparities between the women’s and men’s national teams.

Surprisingly, compensation between U.S. Soccer and the WNT are collectively bargained, and the labour union representing them (and all women soccer players) is the U.S. Women’s National Team Players Association. Disputes between the union and U.S. Soccer has been on-going as the latter has argued that the current agreement is in effect until the end of the 2016 Olympics, while the former argues it can be terminated at any time (source: New York Times, Gregory Bull, February 8, 2016).

Here in Canada, the kind of activism that is being displayed by the U.S. WNT is unheard of for so many political, insidious and blatant reasons. It’d be unfair to point fingers at any one player, and the system itself can be incredibly dis-empowering to women, but Canada WNT players do have agency, and should have a vested interest in a successful result for the U.S. WNT. Cathal Kelly touched on this in the Globe and Mail and asked the CSA about their thoughts. Their response was “Canada Soccer is aware of the lawsuit launched today by members of the U.S. Women’s National Team. This action is specific to those individuals and U.S. Soccer and as such, Canada Soccer will not provide further comment”. Hmmmmmmmmmm …

As the story unfolds, the hope would be that not only does it make visible these angering and repeated acts of discrimination, but engage women’s soccer in Canada in a more complex, honest and accountable public conversation about the impact of sexism, and other discrimination in sport.

To read more about the U.S. WNT application against U.S. Soccer filed last week, go to Andrew Das’ article in the New York Times or visit espnW for full and on-going coverage.

Women’s World Cup: Round of 16

There were some teams that had it harder than others in the Round of 16: Australia, Canada, England … but there were also scary flashes of defeat when Japan was playing the Netherlands, and China vs Cameroon. Canada couldn’t have scripted a better pathway to the semi-finals than what they’ve been given this WWC. I thought they had a good game against Switzerland but that the team as a whole was not consistent or cohesive enough. Ultimately it was individual play that propelled them to the win, particularly from Erin McLeod, Josee Belanger and Alysha Chapman.

What was also fun about the Round of 16 was the trash talk. I think it’s fair to say that Colombia hates the US – they certainly have a history with each other. Lady Andrade, Colombia’s star striker and sometimes midfielder, said before the Colombia – US match-up: “They belittle us. They think we’re a team they’re going to walk all over and it will be an easy game for them … we’re going to beat them since they like to talk so much”. Needless to say the Colombians didn’t beat the Americans, but I love the attitude!

Watching England play Norway in the Round of 16, I thought they showed strong goaltending and made strong defensive decisions. They struggle with scoring, with their offensive game basically, however that’s exactly where Canada sits too. So in the end, the Canada – England match-up will be the toughest, and ideal, quarter-final game for the Canadian squad. I have a feeling Canada will win.

Happy Pride Toronto!

Pictures*** from Ottawa matches played on June 20th and June 22nd are below.
[Match 1: Germany vs Sweden & Match 2: England vs Norway]

IMG_1514 IMG_1516 IMG_1520 IMG_1525 IMG_1534 IMG_1560 IMG_1594 IMG_1607 IMG_1618 IMG_1674 IMG_1689 IMG_1701

***All pictures © Cristina Murano

Best Of and A Few Things to Look Forward To

At this time of year, there are all sorts of “Best Of” lists and “Persons of the Year”, and I love these lists because they highlight milestones and achievements; here are some notable mentions:

Toronto Star: “Star’s People to Watch in 2014 Delivered on their Promise”
I was delighted to see that the Star included Sura Yekka, who hails from Mississauga and has been playing soccer since she was 6, on their list. At the age of 17 she has already competed in two World Cups: the FIFA U17 and the FIFA U20. She is on the Canada WNT roster for the upcoming 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup and is expected to play in the 2016 Summer Olympics.

espnW: Impact 25
The list featured athletes and influencers of 2014, and is not, by any means comprehensive (where was Eugenie Bouchard?!) yet it does feature a number of incredible people: Mo’ne Davis, Little League Baseball pitcher extraordinaire, Becky Hammond, the Assistant Coach to the San Antonio Spurs, and Michele Roberts, the Executive Director of the NBA Players Association.

Next year will be an incredible year for sport with the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the Pan Am Games, and Para Pan Am Games all happening successively and in Canada. There will also be more Toronto Raptors basketball, more Canadian Women’s Hockey League action, and the beginning of the WBNA and NWSL 2015 seasons.

Back in February, when I started Lace Up Your Cleats, it was on a bit of whim, and was inspired by my experiences in competitive and recreational sport, and my witness to the incredible athleticism of women, transgender and genderqueer athletes. Thank you for your continued interest and support for LUYC. I’m looking forward to 2015 and to the continued growth of this endeavour.

Posting will resume in the new year. Until then, happy holidays!