Cindy Parlow Cone, the newly-installed United States Soccer Federation president, said her foremost objective is to settle the gender discrimination lawsuit with members of the US women’s national team before the case goes to trial.
“That’s one of our top priorities right now,” said Parlow Cone. “I don’t think a trial is good for either party or for soccer in this country or internationally. I’m hopeful we can find a resolution before this goes to trial.”
Added the recently-appointed US Soccer chief executive Will Wilson in a conference call to reporters, “It’s a priority, and finding a solution would be the best way forward.”
Parlow Cone recently assumed the role of US Soccer president following the resignation of Carlos Cordeiro after federation lawyers used sexist and misogynistic language in legal filings to argue its position.
“A lot of damage has been done, and I think we are going to have to rebuild that trust and rebuild the relationship, and it’s not going to happen overnight,” Parlow Cone added. “It’s going to take a lot of effort and time and energy for the US Soccer side to rebuild that trust, not only with our US women’s national team players, but with our fans and everyone engaged in sport.”
In March 2019, members of the USWNT filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against US Soccer in the search for better pay and working conditions, but talks between the two parties ended without resolution in August. USWNT players recently filed a motion seeking more than $66m in damages and back pay. A trial has been set for May 5.
“The solution here is clear, simple, and unequivocal: equal pay,” said Molly Levinson, a spokesperson for the players, in response to Cone’s comments.
The global coronavirus pandemic has hampered plans for further talks, however. “We’re hopeful that we can schedule [a meeting] very soon,” Parlow Cone said. “I think it’s challenging right now, with the backdrop of coronavirus and I’m a big believer in getting people in the same room and finding resolution.”
ESPN has reported that US Soccer chief legal officer Lydia Wahlke has been placed on administrative leave, in large part because of the federation’s bungled handling of the situation under Cordeiro, which has led to a huge public backlash. The law firm Seyfarth Shaw has also been replaced on the case by Lathan & Watkins.
“The comments and the language in last filing, I think not only hurt our relationship with our women’s national team, but hurt women and girls in general, and as a former national player, they were personally hurtful to me,” Parlow Cone said.
“It’s one thing to argue that men and women play in different tournaments, it’s very different to argue women have less ability or less responsibility,” she added.
Parlow Cone is due for re-election as US Soccer president in February 2021. She declined to say if she would seek to remain in the position for the long term.
“With so many things going on the Federation and in the world right now, I’m literally working day and night to ensure we have a smooth transition from Carlos to me as president, and with the hiring of Will, as our CEO,” she said. “As you can imagine, I didn’t plan to find myself in this position. So the decision to run for president will come in time. Right now, I’m focused on onboarding Will as quickly as we can and getting ready to hit the ground running.”