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CHAMPIONSGATE, Fla. — The United States women’s national team raised eyebrows two weeks ago when the players filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation — their employer — for gender discrimination just three months before the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup kicks off in France.
On Tuesday, several members of the men’s national team, which is preparing to face Ecuador in a friendly match in Orlando this week, backed their female colleagues.
“I don’t think I’m surprised to see it,” said veteran defender Omar Gonzalez, who was also with the USMNT in 2016 when some of the top U.S. women’s players accused the federation of paying them less than their male counterparts. “I can tell you that we support the women. But I think that’s as far as I’ll go. We support them, but right now, we’re focused on what we’re doing here.”
Forward Jordan Morris echoed Gonzalez’s comments, while defender DeAndre Yedlin, who plays for Newcastle United in the English Premier League, admitted that while the men have talked about the dispute “a little bit” since reporting to the Sunshine State this week, they want to “for the most part stay away from that topic for now.”
It’s easy to understand why. As others have pointed out, the topic is not as black and white as it seems on the surface. It’s nuanced. It’s complicated. And it can be decidedly thorny to navigate. Former USMNT defender/midfielder Graham Zusi learned that the hard way when he fielded a question about the last pay dispute during an on-camera interview three years ago. Few players want to find themselves in a similar situation discussing charged subject matter about which they might not know all the ins and outs.
Even U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro struck a notably collaborative tone when he finally responded to the USWNT’s lawsuit a full week after the court filing became public.
“As we continue to review the lawsuit, we thought it was imperative to reach out to team leaders to better understand their thoughts and concerns,” Cordeiro wrote in an open letter. “While we believe the current agreement is fair and equitable, we are committed to working with our USWNT players and understanding specifically where they believe improvement is needed.”
“I spoke with some of the veteran players to better understand their thoughts and concerns,” Cordeiro added. “Our initial conversation was open, cordial and professional, and we will continue to work to resolve this matter.”
Until then, expect the men to continue to tread lightly, too.
“Obviously we support the women,” Morris said. “But right now, I think our main focus is here at this camp.”
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