Insider Notes: Megan Rapinoe’s protest, possible USWNT strike, more
• After FIFA reforms earlier this year made sure there would be at least six women—one from each continent—on the 37-member FIFA Council, the despairing question being asked during elections this month is: Who are these women being elected? Norway’s Karen Espelund, an experienced administrator who lost a UEFA election this year, told me: “We’re seeing a tendency that women with no or limited background in football are elected.”
Two worrisome examples: UEFA’s new female rep, Evelina Christillin of Italy, insulted gay players this week and once used racial slurs against Inter Milan’s Indonesian owner. (She later apologized.) Meanwhile, Australia’s Moya Dodd, the most respected women’s leader at FIFA, is facing a real challenge in Asia by unknown candidates from Bangladesh and (wait for it) North Korea. The election in Asia will be a real litmus test of whether Asia is serious about electing a women’s representative based on merit and experience. If it doesn’t do so, then these gender reforms are a joke.
The problem here is the voters: The 211 federation presidents, all but three of them men, many of whom would rather install a woman who’s pliable instead of having a strong voice and a commitment to the growth of women’s soccer globally.
“We need people representing all aspects of football,” said Espelund. “It’s through diversity that all organizations develop in a better way, and this is very needed in international football’s decisive bodies. And that is why we also need women representing the fastest-growing part of the game: women’s football.”
• After leaving open the possibility, U.S. Soccer decided not to punish Megan Rapinoe in Sunday night’s game against the Netherlands for taking a knee during the national anthem in Columbus on Thursday in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick’s protest against police treatment of black Americans. One U.S. player told me that several players support Rapinoe’s cause but not her action of kneeling, adding that a few players tried to talk her out of kneeling in Columbus. The player said nobody in the Columbus players’ meeting suggested linking arms with Rapinoe or joining her in kneeling during the anthem.
• Will the U.S. women’s national team go on strike in January? That’s one of the big questions facing the team with its collective bargaining agreement ending on Dec. 31 and the players still demanding equal pay to the U.S. men’s team. The next CBA talks between the players and U.S. Soccer are set to take place in October. One source on the players’ side said there’s a realistic chance there will be a work stoppage in January, not least because the two sides remain far apart on several issues and there are no important international games in the near future. But one U.S. player was a bit more encouraging, saying there had been limited progress between the two sides and that she hopes there won’t be a work stoppage. Any strike could also affect the NWSL, since U.S. Soccer pays the league salaries of the national team players as well.