The United States women's national soccer team players' union has hit back at US Soccer, claiming their motion for an expedited judgment on the status of their collective bargaining agreement with the players is without merit. In their filing, attorneys for the players put forward their own evidence that their Memorandum of Understanding does not constitute a CBA and accuses US Soccer of intentionally misleading the court.
If you want to read the entire filing, complete with the exhibits, case law citations and all of that thrilling stuff, you can find a PDF of it here, thanks to Philly.com's Jonathan Tannenwald.
First and foremost, the players say that there's no need for an immediate hearing because they haven't threatened a work stoppage and have no intention of striking. This is the only part of the case that has nothing to do with documentation or any kind of legal argument, so it's a tough claim for US Soccer to counter. If the players say they're going to keep playing, they should probably be taken on their word.
The players also say that USSF was aware of their position that they did not have a CBA before Richard Nichols -- who is representing the players in CBA negotiations -- refused to take the option of a work stoppage off the table. "USSF sat on its hands for over seven months and now rushes to the courthouse claiming an emergency exists," reads the players' response to USSF's lawsuit. "This Court should not countenance such disingenuous behavior."
But then there's the contract stuff, which is very much in dispute. On Friday, we wrote that this entire mess was created by attorneys for both sides not doing their due diligence on the MOU, which was sloppy and lacking in detail. The players' representatives agree, pointing out numerous reasons why the MOU is not a CBA. Let's go through them.
1. USSF's financial statements read a lot differently from their lawsuit.
While USSF can reasonably argue that its financial statements are not written by anyone with a background in labor law, this is a bad look.
2. The only reference to a term limit in the MOU isn't actually a term limit.
As if the MOU didn't already look sloppy.
3. USSF omitted a key part of Ruth Uselton's email.
This suggests that the players' representatives knew that the MOU was just meant to get them to show up for the start of the NWSL season, not act as a CBA for nearly four years.
4. USSF also omitted a key part of John Langel's testimony.
As the players' attorneys explain it, "USSF did not attach as an exhibit the full testimony here, but cut off the testimony in mid-sentence." This looks pretty bad!
The people behind this response are Jeffrey Kessler's team at Winston & Strawn, who have been dunking on sports leagues for years. Kessler's most recent high-profile win was getting Tom Brady's four-game NFL suspension overturned. He also won an anti-trust judgment that paved the way for NFL free agency and won reinstatement of Lattrell Spreewell's contract after the NBA star choked his coach.
His record in soccer cases, however, is a bit less impressive. He looked bad during the Fraser vs. MLS lawsuit and hilariously stated that NASL was threatening to become a competitor to MLS in a letter to USSF outlining issues with changes to the Division 1 league standards. But thankfully for the players, this case appears to be simply about what constitutes a legal CBA and what doesn't. Kessler's apparent lack of understanding of the sport shouldn't hurt him in this particular instance.