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Head Of U.S. Soccer Federation Resigns Amid Equal Pay Controversy

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

In the wave of sports events getting cancelled, one story almost got lost. Carlos Cordeiro canceled himself. The president of the U.S. Soccer Federation resigned last night on Twitter. This came after the Federation argued in legal filings that, quote, "indisputable science proved that the women's national team was inferior to the men's."

The legal filings were part of the women's gender discrimination and equal pay lawsuit. And to talk more about this, we are joined by USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan.

Welcome back to the program.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Ari, it's great to be here. Thank you.

SHAPIRO: So indisputable science - this was not all the legal filing said. Give us some more detail.

BRENNAN: Absolutely. It seems like it must have come from 1920, Ari, not 2020. It said the women lacked the skill of the male players. The women did not face the same responsibilities, quote, unquote, because their global game, the women's game, is not as developed as the men's - of course it's not; it just began in the 1990s, basically - that their work is not equal to the work of the men's team. The men's game requires more speed and strength than the women's game - basically a glaring neon sign that women, you are not equal to men. And...

SHAPIRO: And we should remind listeners that the women's track record here is far better than the men's.

BRENNAN: It is. The men, unfortunately, are just not good, did not qualify for the last World Cup and often don't even qualify for the Olympic Games. That's happened a time or two. U.S. women have won four World Cups. They are the two-time reigning World Cup champ.

SHAPIRO: So what was the reaction to these remarks that, as you say, could have come from the 1920s?

BRENNAN: You can imagine it wasn't great. Well, in addition to an outcry, Ari, from current players, former players, some male players as well, most significant - something you don't often see - corporate sponsors. They usually like to be in the shadows and not talk about things or not get involved in controversy. This time, they sure did. Coca-Cola, Visa, Budweiser, Deloitte, all of them using the words like - words like offensive, this is offensive to them, unacceptable, that they're disgusted by this filing by U.S. Soccer. So it was pretty strong, as you would expect, and it was swift, and it was loud, and it turned out to have an effect.

SHAPIRO: So we have to ask the question now that Cordeiro is gone - how much of this was him, and how much was U.S. Soccer?

BRENNAN: Well, that is a good question because, of course, this happened Monday night, the filing. He was apologizing Wednesday, and he was resigning Thursday, almost as quickly as some of the coronavirus news - just so, so fast. And the concern now moving forward is the U.S. Soccer board. How many other people knew about this filing? He apologized for it, and yet, of course, he had to know at least some of it. It's the whole tone and tenor of this organization that is supposed to be for the good of the game, growing the game for women and men, boys and girls. And to think that they would even consider some kind of legal strategy like this is really astounding.

SHAPIRO: His replacement as president is Cindy Parlow Cone, who's a former member of the women's team. Do you think her appointment is likely to shape things going forward?

BRENNAN: Ari, the first woman to be president of U.S. Soccer, so that's significant in and of itself. Cindy Parlow Cone was one of the stars of the '99 team, the iconic team that won in the Rose Bowl in July of '99, Brandi Chastain whipping off her shirt. Cindy was a big part of that team, so she's got a tall order ahead because she has been part of the leadership. What did she know, when did she know it about the filing?

The good news is, though, she's got a year now, and hopefully she can start to clean house and do some of the things you would expect and hopefully she would feel that maybe are necessary for her as that first female president of U.S. Soccer.

SHAPIRO: Just in a sentence or two do, you think this means they're likely to settle rather than go to trial?

BRENNAN: They should settle. I mean, why would you pick a fight with the most popular women's soccer team and the most popular women's team on the planet?

SHAPIRO: Christine Brennan is a sports columnist for USA Today.

Thanks for joining us.

BRENNAN: My pleasure, Ari. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.