Thirteen U.S. senators have signed letters to U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati and FIFA president Sepp Blatter urging them to support the use of natural grass fields at next year’s Women’s World Cup in Canada, SI.com has learned.
As of now, all six WWC venues are set to have artificial turf fields. It would be the first time a senior men’s or women’s World Cup was not played on natural grass. A group of top women’s players from around the world, led by U.S. forward Abby Wambach and Germany World Player of the Year Nadine Angerer, has brought a case alleging gender discrimination by FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal in an effort to force a switch to natural grass fields.
“We ask that the U.S. Soccer Federation use its influence to urge … [FIFA] to reconsider this short-sighted and counterproductive decision,” the senators write in their letter to Gulati. “We also ask that the U.S. Soccer Federation make every effort to ensure that players who express concerns about this situation are not retaliated against.”
“Our women’s national team has earned our nation’s respect and admiration,” the letter to Gulati continues later. “And they deserve to be treated with the respect that their skill and performance have earned.”
“The United States women’s national soccer team deserves to be treated fairly and equally by FIFA,” the letter to Gulati concludes. “We urge you in your capacity as a member of FIFA’s Executive Committee and President of the United States Soccer Federation to support these players by urging FIFA to use grass fields for the 2015 Women’s World Cup and by making sure the players are not retaliated against.”
The letter to Blatter contains much of the same language, but adds: “We are particularly concerned by reports that FIFA has ignored the concerns of female players over the safety issues and lack of prestige associated with using turf fields. Furthermore, we are disturbed by reports that FIFA has threatened to retaliate against players who voice concerns and demand the same playing field as their male peers.”
The U.S. senators who signed the letters are: Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Chuck Schumer (D-New York), Patty Murray (D-Washington), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York), Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts), Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Dianne Feinstein (D-California), Barbara Boxer (D-California), Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania) and Maria Cantwell (D-Washington).