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Why U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro Had to Resign After Disgraceful Defense in USWNT Case

Carlos Cordeiro approved of U.S. Soccer's disgraceful legal defense strategy in the USWNT players’ gender-discrimination case, and he should resign immediately from his post.
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Editor's Note: Carlos Cordeiro announced his resignation as U.S. Soccer president Thursday night, about 20 hours after this column was originally published.

Carlos Cordeiro, the U.S. Soccer president who presided over a disgraceful legal strategy citing “science” to belittle the world champion U.S. women’s national team based on its gender, should resign immediately.

There is no other conclusion that can be reached after the federation showed shockingly poor judgment approving official language from U.S. Soccer claiming that the job of a men’s national team player requires a higher level of skill and ability than the job of a women’s national team player.

That is the language of Twitter trolls who think how women’s players would perform against men’s players actually matters, when it is quite obviously an apples-to-oranges comparison of no value at all. The language of Twitter trolls should never be the language of U.S. Soccer, and Cordeiro should leave his post now since he does not appear to understand that.

Cordeiro issued a formal apology for U.S. Soccer’s legal strategy in the USWNT players’ gender-discrimination case on Wednesday night, but that apology rings hollow since it only came after the federation had received stinging rebukes in the Wall Street Journal and Buzzfeed News from its own sponsors, including Visa, Budweiser, Deloitte and Coca-Cola. (Sample from Coca-Cola: “We are extremely disappointed with the unacceptable and offensive comments made by U.S. Soccer.”) Those sponsors added they wanted to meet with U.S. Soccer officials immediately.

U.S. Soccer has had a long history of discriminating against its women’s players, a story that SI told in detail in last year’s podcast series THROWBACK about the U.S. women’s national team. But never before this week had that discrimination been put into writing so brazenly by the federation itself. In documents released to the public, presumably after significant vetting from U.S. Soccer, the federation argued that women’s players deserved to be paid less than men’s players because their ability and skill were not as good as those of men’s players if they competed against each other on the field.

Think about that. Based on that reasoning, no women in any job that requires physical effort should be paid as much as their male counterparts. What’s more, U.S. Soccer claimed that its men’s players have a greater responsibility than its women’s players because the men play in more competitive tournaments with greater prize money and in front of more hostile crowds. That argument ignores that women’s soccer received little to no investment for decades and that the responsibility of having a constant target on your back as the world’s best team is immense.

It was the kind of argument that will stain the U.S. Soccer Federation for generations as an organization that discriminates based on gender. There is no going back from that.

For its part, the U.S. men’s team should be irate at U.S. Soccer for setting it up to be torn down publicly when the federation tries to make such offensive arguments. The USMNT has had a hard enough time dealing with the backlash from failing to qualify for World Cup 2018, but the last thing it needs is for U.S. Soccer to argue that the men have more skill and ability when the USWNT has won two straight World Cups and the USMNT is still reeling from the lowest point in program history.

Cordeiro should resign not just for the federation’s legal strategy, however, but because it’s only the latest example of his poor judgment and performance since he took over the federation in 2018. Just last Saturday night, Cordeiro decided to release a public statement challenging the USWNT on the court case, and he was deservedly criticized by several players for doing it the night before an important game against Spain.

Meanwhile, Cordeiro has presided over a search for a new CEO for U.S. Soccer that has literally taken years and has yet to name anyone to fill the post. Cordeiro and the federation hired one search firm, and when they weren’t happy with that they hired another search firm, and yet the federation’s most important job still remains unfilled several years after former CEO Dan Flynn first expressed his desire to leave. Part of the lack of interest from potential CEO candidates has to do with the nearly half-dozen lawsuits that currently exist against U.S. Soccer, including from the USWNT players, Hope Solo, the NASL and an actual charity (the U.S. Soccer Foundation).

Look, there are plenty of legitimate arguments to be had in the USWNT gender-discrimination case, whether they’re about revenues produced, sponsorships or other similar topics. (For example, it makes little sense, as the USWNT players have claimed, that U.S. Soccer should be responsible for covering the shortfall in FIFA’s World Cup prize money between men and women.)

The fact remains that a court of law is very different from the court of public opinion, and U.S. Soccer may end up winning the case. But when it comes to the legal strategies for that case, the federation had other ones that it could have used instead of pulling out the caveman/Twitter troll argument that it tried to employ.

Stunningly, Cordeiro didn’t do that. And that kind of career-defining misjudgment means he has to resign as U.S. Soccer president. Now.