The fight between the U.S. women’s national soccer team and U.S. Soccer – the federation that oversees the women’s team and their male counterparts – got uglier Wednesday night.
It included strong words from a star player after the team hid their U.S. Soccer uniform logos during a national anthem protest prior to a 3-1 win over Japan in the final of the SheBelieves Cup in Frisco, Texas.
Megan Rapinoe, who led last year’s U.S. triumph in the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, tore into U.S. Soccer and boss Carlos Cordeiro after the game, just hours after Cordeiro apologized for a federation court filing as the organization defended itself against a $66 million discrimination lawsuit filed by the women players.
The language had described female players as less skilled than men – and claimed its argument was “indisputable science” rather than “a sexist stereotype.”
It also claimed male players deserve more money than women because the men often face “the hostility of the fans” while the women players do not.
But Rapinoe made clear she wasn’t accepting the apology – which followed backlash from major corporate sponsors of women’s soccer, including Coca-Cola, Budweiser and Visa -- and claimed to be speaking on behalf of her teammates, who participated in the pre-game protest.
"We've sort of felt that those are some of the undercurrent feelings that they've had for a long time,” Rapinoe said, referring to U.S. Soccer’s court document. “But to see that as the argument, as blatant misogyny and sexism as the argument against us, is really disappointing.
"But I just want to say, it's all false,” she added. “To every girl out there, to every boy out there, who watches this team, who wants to be on this team, or just wants to live their dream out, you are not lesser just because you're a girl. You are not better just because you're a boy.
"We're all created equal and should all have the equal opportunity to go out and pursue our dreams, and for us that means playing on the soccer field. So, everything that was in that deposition, what they said in the argument is just not true. Don't ever believe that.”
Rapinoe and other star women players – including 2015 FIFA World Cup star Carli Lloyd – claim they deserve the same pay the members of the men’s national team receive and also similar treatment, such as chartered flights to matches.
Prior to Wednesday’s game in Texas, the U.S. women players wore their jerseys inside-out, so that the U.S. Soccer logo was not visible, during the national anthem and during the taking of a team photo. But the players wore the jerseys the correct way during the match.
In his apology, Cordeiro acknowledged that the language in the organization’s court filing had caused “pain.”
“On behalf of US Soccer, I sincerely apologize for the offense and pain caused by language in this week's court filing, which did not reflect the values of our federation or our tremendous admiration of our Women's National Team,” Cordeiro said.
“Our WNT players are incredibly talented and work tirelessly, as they have demonstrated time and again from their Olympic Gold medals to their World Cup titles.”
A trial in the discrimination suit is scheduled to begin May 5. Both sides have moved for summary judgments, asking U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner to decide in their favor without a trial.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.