A group of 13 U.S. senators has joined in the protest over the plan to play the 2015 Women's World Cup in Canada on artificial turf.
Led by Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the lawmakers signed letters sent Friday to FIFA and the U.S. Soccer Federation in support of players who say that holding the World Cup on artificial turf amounts to gender discrimination because men play soccer's premier tournament on real grass.
The players, who have filed legal action in Canada over the issue, claim that artificial turf impacts the way the game is played. They say the ball moves differently and players are more prone to certain injuries, like turf burn.
First reported by SI.com, the letters were signed by 12 Democrats and one Republican. The lawmakers urge soccer's international governing body to ''reconsider this short-sighted and counterproductive decision.''
''Currently ranked first in the world, the United States women's national soccer team has made our country proud time and time again,'' the letter addressed to FIFA President Sepp Blatter says. ''As members of the United States Senate, we are deeply concerned with FIFA's treatment of these players. We urge you to begin good faith negotiations with these athletes, free of retaliation and with the equal treatment that they deserve.''
The letter comes in the wake of claims that some players are being pressured to remain silent on the issue or remove their names from the legal action. The Canadian Soccer Association has denied the allegations.
The human rights complaint, which names FIFA and the CSA, was filed with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal on Oct. 1 by a group of players including Americans Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan, Germany's Nadine Angerer, Japan's Yuki Ogimi and Spain's Veronica Boquete.
The senators penned a separate letter to U.S. Soccer's Sunil Gulati urging him, in his role as federation president and member of the FIFA executive committee, to join the players in their effort to put the tournament on natural grass.
Officials from FIFA and the CSA have said there are no plans to change the playing surface. The original bid for the event stipulated the artificial turf, which is approved under FIFA rules.
The World Cup runs June 6 to July 5.