Former US women’s footballer Hope Solo has claimed a win for athletes’ rights after a panel of independent arbitrators ruled that US Soccer is in violation of federal law under the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act.
Solo said the move marks a “massive first step in holding US Soccer accountable and protecting athletes’ rights”.
The 37-year-old won 202 caps for the US Women’s National Team (USWNT). She filed a lawsuit against US Soccer with the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) 18 months ago on the grounds that US Soccer was breaking federal law under the Ted Stevens Act.
In a statement, Solo said: “It (US Soccer) was failing to live up to its responsibilities as the sport’s national governing body – not just for the Women’s National Team and our fight for equality, but for families across the country who can’t afford for their kids to play, the underserved communities who don’t have the same opportunities, the unsupported Paralympic and deaf athletes, and everyone else in between.”
Solo said the USOC did “nothing” and dismissed the suit, telling her she needed to file a complaint with US Soccer itself.
Solo continued: “The Stevens Act requires that all decision-making bodies, including Grievance panels, have 20-per-cent athlete representation. US Soccer, in a blatant violation of federal law, quietly changed its bylaws about 10 years ago to bypass the 20-per-cent athlete representation requirement. I am also certain that 99 per cent of our USSF athletes are not aware this right was stripped of them years ago.
“The USOC’s decision to dismiss the complaint made no sense. The USOC is duty bound to protect the rights of athletes and in this case, they looked the other way. I responded by filing a demand for arbitration with the American Arbitration Association. I asked the AAA panel to determine that the USOC made a mistake – that they had a responsibility to hear my complaint and evaluate the merits of the issues. The panel’s ruling now forces the USOC to do that. This is a massive first step in holding US Soccer accountable and protecting athletes’ rights.”
Last month, Relevent Sports, the match promoter which owns and markets the International Champions Cup, filed a lawsuit against US Soccer for failing to sanction moving an Ecuadorian league match to Miami. Relevant had been seeking to play a match between Barcelona SC and Guyaquil City in Miami but the game was eventually played in Ecuador.
In March, the USWNT stepped up its battle against US Soccer for equal pay and working conditions by filing a gender discrimination lawsuit against the governing body. All 28 members of the current squad filed the lawsuit at the United States District Court in Los Angeles, citing “institutionalised gender discrimination”.