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Carlos Cordeiro resigns as U.S. Soccer president over sexism in equal pay lawsuit

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The president of U.S. Soccer resigned Thursday night following a wave of backlash against the federation.

United States Women’s National Team Introduce Head Coach Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Carlos Cordeiro has resigned as president of U.S. Soccer following public outcry about the federation’s sexist legal defense used in its equal pay dispute with the United States Women’s National Team. Cordeiro issued a public statement about his resignation on Thursday night, saying, “My one and only mission has always been to do what is best for our federation, and it has become clear to me that what is best right now is a new direction.”

Cindy Parlow Cone, a former USWNT player, will step up from vice president to president.

The USWNT filed a complaint against the federation in federal court in March 2019, alleging gender-based pay discrimination. A contentious back-and-forth ensued, with public pressure on Cordeiro ramping up on Feb. 20 when the federation’s legal strategy was made public. In a request for summary judgment, USSF argued the national teams of the men and the women perform fundamentally different jobs. Among their arguments was that playing for the men’s team requires more physical ability, and thus deserved a different compensation standard.

The dispute got uglier Tuesday night, when the federation’s reaction to filings by the players’ lawyers was released. U.S. Soccer’s lawyers doubled down on their argument that women are inherently inferior to men.

Following those filings, several of U.S. Soccer’s biggest sponsors spoke out against the federation. Many of the federation’s corporate partners referred to the statements as “offensive.” In response, the USWNT players wore their warmup jerseys inside-out ahead of their match against Japan on Wednesday night, hiding the federation’s crest.

SOCCER: MAR 11 Women’s SheBelieves Cup - USA v Japan Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In response to the backlash, Cordeiro issued a statement at the end of the game apologizing for the language in the federation’s legal filings, and stating U.S. Soccer would be changing the law firm representing its defense. However, the apology did nothing to stop sharp criticism. Cone and MLS commissioner Don Garber issued statements condemning the federation. Both are U.S. Soccer board members.

Cordeiro’s resignation, and replacement by a former USWNT player, will likely be seen as a positive change by many across the American soccer landscape. However, it should be noted that Cone and Cordeiro were aware of the federation’s strategy before Thursday. The federation’s filings on Feb. 20 made its position clear, and it’s unlikely USSF board members were completely unaware of the defense its counsel would be pursuing before then in the federation’s most high-profile legal dispute.

One personnel change will not fix the culture that led to the equal pay lawsuit and resulting sexist legal strategy. At The Athletic, Meg Linehan detailed discrimination and sexist arguments against paying the USWNT fairly dating back to the mid-1990s. This problem did not start in 2019. Cone now faces the difficult task of removing the rot that led to this line of thinking in the first place.